Contributed by Eva Fleming | 2013
The Olsen twins are the most famous siblings I know. When I see them I make two observations: They like high-end fashion and complement one another like fudge on ice cream. I don’t know if this is the reality behind the camera but it is the impression that I and most outsiders get. However, not all siblings share the same genetic origin, and unfortunately for mom and dad, not all siblings have synchronized needs and wants.
After a day of school, the children under my roof are never in agreement. Fighting constantly out of jealousy and competition, they require the services of a referee to help them resolve their conflicts. As summer arrives, I will be among the many parents bracing themselves for the 24/7 squabbling and bickering that children engage in to fill their newfound free time.
There are many different opinions about what to do with sibling rivalry. The opinion that tickles me the most is the ‘don’t get involved unless there’s physical harm’ theory. I think NOT! My suggestion is exactly the opposite: Get involved! Children don’t know anything about relationships and have no idea how to compromise, communicate, negotiate, and consolidate.
The best way to approach sibling conflict is to get involved in the lives of your kids. Being present helps eliminate a sense of competition if your kids are in fact vying for YOUR attention. Your presence helps model peaceful behavior, gives your kids the parental attention they crave, and fulfills you as a parent because you know you’ve done your job. If you are busy when a conflict arises and can’t play referee at that very moment, keep one of the children next to you. I tell my 6-year old when he comes to recount an offense and I can’t deal with it at the moment: “Stay with mommy, she would never be mean to you.” He stays with me for 20 seconds before deciding that what I am doing is too boring for him, and goes back to play with his brother with the mindset that if they don’t get along he will be forced to sit with a loving but boring mommy all day. Somehow learning to get along gets exciting for him fast.
Here are two things you should never do when your children quibble:
- Assign blame! It takes two to tango.
- Remove your love and attention from your children.
Sibling rivalry is an element of life. Learn to deal with it rather than dread it. Just remember to engage with your kids, play and spend as much time with them as your schedule allows. You don’t play children’s games? You don’t have time for all that nonsense? Well, in the wise words of Dr. Seuss, “If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.” So go ahead, bring out your inner parent and love your children through their sibling rivalry.