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TIPS ON TACKLING SIBLING RIVALRY

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Most times, sibling rivalry starts even before the second child is born, and continues as the kids grow and compete for everything from toys to attention.

Sibling rivalry is based upon the wish to be the first or the best or to have more or the most. Security lies in having all of Mommy, all of Daddy, all of the food, or all of the space. It gets upsetting having kids fight with one another because all you want for your kids is the show of love amongst themselves.

A household that's full of conflict is stressful for everyone. Yet often it's hard to know how to stop the fighting, and or even whether you should get involved at all. But you can take steps to promote peace in your household and help your kids get along.

Many different things can cause siblings to fight. Most brothers and sisters experience some degree of jealousy or competition, and this can flare into disputes.

There are other factors that may influence why kids fight; this include:

  • Evolving needs- It is natural for kids' to have changing needs, anxieties, and identities; which affects to how kids relate with one another. 
  • Kids with special needs- most times, a child's special needs due to illness or learning/emotional issues may require more parental time. This may not be easy on other kids as your child may pick up on this disparity and act out to get attention or out of fear of what's happening to the other child.
  • Individual temperaments- Your kids' individual temperaments including mood, character, and adaptability and their unique personalities play a large role in how well they get along.
  • Are you good role models to your kids- children look at the way their parents react to certain things without you noticing. The way parents resolve problems and disagreements sets a strong example for kids. So if you and your spouse work through conflicts in a way that's respectful, productive, and not aggressive, you increase the chances that your children will adopt those tactics when they run into problems with one another. If your kids see you routinely shout, slam doors, and loudly argue when you have problems, they're likely to pick up those bad habits themselves.

Here are some useful principles for parents in handling sibling fights:
1.    Start by acknowledging that the children are angry at each other. That alone often helps to calm them.
2.    Listen to each child's side with respect.
3.    Show appreciation for the difficulty of the problem.
4.    Help them to express their feelings in words.
5.    Express confidence in their abilities to work out a mutually agreeable solution.
6.    If the situation is definitely dangerous, each should be sent to a different room for cooling off.
7.    Leave the room.
8.    Another choice is stepping in only if there's a danger of physical harm. If you always intervene, you risk creating other problems. The kids may start expecting your help and wait for you to come to the rescue rather than learning to work out the problems on their own.
Remember, as kids cope with disputes, they also learn important skills that will serve them for life like how to value another person's perspective, how to compromise and negotiate, and how to control aggressive impulses.

The ways that we handle their own arguments provide models for our children. When parents disagree, we model well for our children when we:
1.    Take time to sit down and talk.
2.    Pinpoint the issue and stick to it.
3.    Adopt a problem-solving attitude rather than a combative attitude of attacking and winning.
4.    Only one person talks at a time.
5.    Focus on the present, not on past events.
6.    Avoid making assumptions about what the other thinks or feels.
7.    Be open to giving and receiving feedback.
8.    Avoid sarcasm and name-calling.
9.    Be willing to compromise, because there always are two sides to every dispute.

Here are daily tips that will help prevent fights amongst your kids:

  • Set ground rules for acceptable behaviour.
  • Don't let kids make you think that everything always has to be "fair" and "equal".
  • Be proactive in giving your kids one on one attention directed to their interests and needs.
  • Make sure kids have their own space and time to do their own thing.
  • Show and tell your kids that, for you, love is not something that comes with limits.
  • Let them know that they are safe, important, and loved, and that their needs will be met.
  • Have fun together as a family.
  • Recognize when kids just need time apart from each other and the family dynamics.

When we and our children are able to verbally communicate our feelings and needs to each other, not only are blind emotional outbursts minimized, but we are able to affirm our respective talents and our contributions to each others welfare.

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