As the mother of two, I take the concept of sibling rivalry very seriously. So much so, that I have taken numerous notes and applied them to our everyday experience as a family.
Don't get me wrong, we have our moments! My kids aren't always angels, but I've discovered that if I take time to look deeply into the reasons behind their behaviors toward each other, I can usually find ways to better nurture them both individually and as a duo.
6 Ways to Help Children Rise Above Sibling Rivalry
#1 - Celebrate Them
Based on my experience in life and what I've observed so far as a mom, I think it's so very important to make sure that each of my children feels loved and valued EXACTLY for who they are.
To accomplish this, I've found that it's important to celebrate their individual positive attributes and strengths while encouraging them to celebrate each other. As we move throughout our days, I try to give them each a chance to shine — whether it be as they are doing a particular task or trying to share something that is meaningful to them.
Also, I regularly encourage Sean Jr. and Kensington to share with each other what they love most about each other and to complement each other when they do something nice.
I try to avoid encouraging competition and focus on unity instead. This can come in the form of creating opportunities where they work together as a team. For example, they can work together to clean their play area or help bake with me in the kitchen. There are few things that make me smile more than seeing them create something as a team.
#2 - Spend One on One Time
Spending alone time with our children is so very important. I think back to my most precious moments in my growing years, and I can truly say time spent one-on-one with my mom or dad made such a difference in the way I saw the world.
I try to spend uninterrupted time with each of my kids every single day. This can be playing sports outside, building with legos, drawing or painting together, watching their favorite shows, or having a tea party.
When Sean Jr naps, Kensington and I spend mommy/daughter time together. We play with her barbies, bake together, do each other's makeup, and basically anything she wants to do.
When Kensington is spending time with my husband Sean, with my mom, or is at one of her classes, Sean Jr. and I will go on bike rides outside, jump on the trampoline together, go for a walk, climb trees... you name it!
I feel that the time I spend with each of them helps them feel more connected, fulfilled, and loved.
#3 - Promote Empathy and Sensitivity
Encouraging our kids to lead with love is so very important. Even in times of frustration, I try to teach my children to be understanding and accepting of each other.
And believe me!!!... sometimes things go horribly wrong. But when they do, I find the key is encouraging them to put themselves in each other's shoes. For example, I may suggest something like, “Kensington, how would you feel if Sean Jr. grabbed that toy out of your hand without asking? You would not like it very much. Let's give the toy back to your brother and ask him to share it with you.”
More often than not, they seem to grasp this concept and make an attempt to make the situation better.
I encourage them to breathe and use their words. I want them to work out the issue between the two of them as much as possible. And I've realized it's my job to give them the tools they need to be understanding and sensitive to each other's feelings.
#4 - Treat Each Child Equally and Fairly
Fairness is incredibly important, punishments and rewards should be as fair and equal as possible. I try to make everything as balanced as possible (and, honestly, this isn't always possible) and I try not to make comparisons, especially when one child is misbehaving and the other is not.
Kensington and Sean Jr. are so close in age (less than 17 months apart) that we are able to give them a lot of the same punishments (timeouts or take-aways) if they are misbehaving. Likewise, we're able to give similar rewards for good behavior.
#5 - Focus on Conflict Resolution
No matter how hard we work to encourage Kensington and Sean Jr. to live peacefully together, there are inevitably moments in which they are frustrated with each other.
Sometimes taking turns with a toy or during an activity can be confronting for them. When this happens, I try my hardest not to take sides or place the blame on either of them. I listen to both of them and work to make them feel understood. Then, I work to encourage them to come up with a solution together. One that they're both happy with.
I sometimes make suggestions, but let them find a solution on their own. Thankfully, I notice the more they work at solving their own issues, the more successful they become at it.
#6 - Remind Them That Siblings Are Lifelong Friends
It's important for us to teach our children that their siblings are lifelong best friends. And if they foster their relationship they will have a safe and sound support system that they can always turn to.
Explain how special the sibling bond is and how important it is to take care of each other. Friends come and go, but family is forever.