Sibling Rivalry

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SiblingRivalry3Reflecting back on my “growing up” years, I don’t remember ever feeling like I had a rivalry with my sister.  She is two years older than me and quite frankly, we got along pretty well.  Sure, we had our moments, but living in a small town in Pennsylvania, we relied on each other and became friends.  We had a circle of friends that we connected with together at our church, so a lot of memories included each other.

I’m sure though, if I asked my mom to describe our relationship when we were quite a bit younger, it wouldn’t be all sunshine and rainbows.  But to give my parents credit, they tried really hard to keep things “fair” between us and I definitely feel that kept the rivalry out of our house.

Now that I’m a mom of two kids myself, I have had many thoughts about how to keep things balanced between my two kids. I know it doesn’t just happen and that I need to control how this is handled. I have a four year old daughter and a two year old son and things have just started heating up between the two when it comes to keeping things fair.

My son is to the point where he can start expressing himself pretty well.  Sentences, new words and concepts that he copies are coming out of him freely.  There is no filter {which, side note, helps me curb my tongue quite often!}  My daughter has reached the point where she interacts with others on a higher level and expresses what I call “extreme-ism” when words like “never”, “always”, and “forever” are frequent…ya know, the sassy teenager that comes out of my sweet little girl.

SiblingsWithoutRivalrySince I want my kids to always have a good bond between each other, I picked up a copy of a book that my pediatrician recommended: Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

And I LOVED IT.

Putting some of the practices to work, I can already see the fruits of my labor!  Some of the paraphrased points in the book that have already helped our family are these:

1. Instead of tattling, go tell your sibling how you feel. My son isn’t quite at that point yet where he can pin-point his feelings, but he does understand when his sister tells him that it hurts her, frustrates her, or makes her sad.  He usually stops the offending behavior and apologizes.  It also helps for ME not to have to be the judge.  He will be able to express himself soon enough, so hopefully, it will be an open line of communication.

2. Let them be heard. My kids are pretty good at playing by themselves or on occasion, together.  Sometimes the play does escalate into a fight and there are tears flowing everywhere! Adding on to the last point, I try to give my kids a chance to tell me what happened.  They each get a turn and usually, with the innocence of a child, one confesses to hitting, taking the toy, being mean, etc. But by this way of each getting a turn to explain, no one is shut out and both are heard.

3. Understanding their frustration. My daughter is the queen of drama and is usually seen dancing around or looking at her expressions in the mirror to see how big and dramatic she can make herself.  She is just learning how to ride her bike without training wheels and she falls off, a lot.  She gets quite worked up and yells out in frustration with annoyed hand gestures.  Instead of just yelling at her to quit the attitude, I try to express to her how frustrating she must feel on learning a new skill.  It usually calms her a bit and helps her feel motivated to try again.

4. Don’t buy your kids the same stuff. There are times where it’s a great idea to buy two of something.  One for my son, one for my daughter.  This simply eliminates any potential fights about sharing and the phrase I hate to hear, “It’s mine!!”  But while that sometimes works, it’s also a good idea for each kid to know they are not always entitled to always getting what the other does.  Just the other day, I realized my daughter had only one pair of shoes that fit.  So, the three of us piled in the car, went to the store, and bought her a pair.  My son didn’t get any because it wasn’t his need. Another time we will likely all go to the store to purchase something he needs and my daughter won’t get something.

5. Encouraging things they do right, instead of things they do wrong. This seems pretty easy to do, but sometimes I forget to be positive and instead, point out the negative.  Encouraging them that they CAN do something is much better than reminding them of disabilities or faults.

These points and much more were all great topics that hit home with me while reading this book.  I really encourage that if you have more than one child in your family, to pick up a copy!  It’s an easy read and many concepts can start as soon as your baby is born.

How do you handle sibling rivalry?

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