How to Avoid Sibling Rivalry
I don’t know what your sibling situation was growing up or how close to your siblings you currently are -- but I always saw my siblings as my built-in best friends. I grew up in a very close knit family and my siblings have always been my best friends, my most faithful cheerleaders and my most calming presence in my life. They have been a true gift in my life, and I believe that a big part of the relationship I have with my siblings today has to do with the way my parents encouraged us to love one another. You see, from the time I can remember, my parents made it a point to instill love, respect and compassion for one another. I know that might not be your story, but it can certainly be the story of your little ones. Since I was three-years-old, there is a phrase my mom and dad used all the time : The 3 of you are a TEAM!
This meant that Your success is also your brother's or sister's success, and your failures are your brother sister failures. Because our parents gave us this perspective, we rejoiced whenever something good would happen to each of us, and we would mourn if one of us had a bad day. This taught us to have compassion for one another, and see each other as a gift, not an annoyance or a competition. Now, I’m not saying there was not the normal fights and pulling of hair here and there.... I certainly did my fair share of pushing my little sister around, and my brother would play pranks on us. We would get annoyed with each other from time to time, and would get upset. But because my parents laid the foundation of what it means to be a sibling, we always moved past it and we are still best friends to this day.
I can not tell you how valuable this has been in my life. Your siblings are the only people in the world that experiences your childhood with you. They know and understand the basis for your excitement, fears, disappointments because they experienced the things that shaped who you are today. And if your little ones are raised to be for each other, they will also be the best support system they could ever have.
There is a bible verse that says “outdo one another in showing honor” Romans 12:10 and this is the goal of sibling love. Actually, I believe this is how we should love everyone. And to teach your little one early on to think about others besides themselves, and instead to encourage them to try to think about their sibling, will set them up to have this mindset. Isn’t sibling love the best way to teach your kids to love others?
So this all sounds cute and all, but how do I do this?
1. When you are with one child, but not the other, get in the habit of bringing up the other sibling. For example, if you are at a party or at the grocery store, ask your child " what do you think we should bring your brother or sister?" This will get your child in the habit of thinking about their sibling, and to be thoughtful. One of the most basic psychology principles is that we value and love more thing or people that we invest our resources in. If your child gets in the habit of thinking about their sibling, they will naturally believe that they value and love their sibling.
2. Always speak highly of your child in front of your other children. Avoid criticizing or labeling one child as “crazy” or anything negative. I know as moms we have crazy days , and sometimes we are overwhelmed. BUT if you must correct your child, take them away from the situation and speak to them. You are the number one speaker of truth in your child’s life-- your child will believe what you say to them and about them.
3. Do not allow siblings to gang-up on each other. For example, if your child misbehaves and you are correcting him/her, it is not ok for the other sibling to say, “yeah my brother/sister is so bad etc.”
4. Make your child excited for the others' success. For example, I remember my mom taking me to the store so that I could pick out a gift for my sister when she had a ballet recital or buying my brother a fish when he got an award. This gave me the opportunity to invest myself in my sibling's success, and it taught me to be excited for them. Remember, children make associations extremely easily!
5. Tell your child when their brother or sister are upset, and come up with a way to cheer them up together. I remember my mom saying, "your brother/sister had a hard day today (she would share no details unless my sibling told her it was o.k or she waited for them to tell me). What is something that you think could cheer them up?" Again you get their little mind out of thinking only about themselves, which is what comes natural, and lets them think about others. The more you do this, the more automatic this becomes.
6. Remind them that they are a team and to stick together- at birthday parties or the park, remind them that they are a team, try to stick together. As kids, we certainly had our own friends did our own activities, but you better believe that if any of us needed something and our parents weren’t around, we knew we could run to our sibling for help and they would be there.
I know it is easy to think that some personalities will just match and others won't, and that you as a mom have no control about your children's relationship with each other- the good news is, this is not true! Sure, some children's temperaments and interests will align better, and some children are naturally more agreeable than others, but as a mom, you have the super power to show your children how to love and care for one another.