Five Proven Patterns to Create Calm
Tired of your kids going at it? Sibling rivalry can be exhausting. Constant fights and bickering take a toll on any parent. Often, our reserves are already taxed by work stresses, long commutes, and wanting to be a great parent.
The good news is, with a few tweaks, you can enjoy much more calm in your family.
Part of preventing the squabbles from sibling rivalry involves understanding what’s behind the behaviors. While a combination of things can result in jealousy and competitiveness among brothers and sisters, you don’t have to live in this constantly.
Here are five major patterns that can occur with siblings, and some practical steps to achieve peace:
A common cause of sibling rivalry is the loss of attention when a new brother and sister is born. This is natural and normal, and your new baby needs additional care that your older child doesn’t anymore.
Listening and understanding goes a long way here. Attempt to plan some 1-1 time where you can, and find ways for the older child to help you and their baby sibling out. You’ll be extra tired with your new baby, so make sure to forgive yourself for not being perfect here, and just keep leading with love.
Even if it’s not accurate, one child can feel unfavored, and think you love them less.
Sometimes, siblings will try to become the favored child by competing for their parent’s attention.
For your child that seems to struggle, you may simply have a different communication style than they do. Remember kids do well if they can, and if they are struggling, something is in their way. Just hearing your troubled kiddo out and understanding their perspective (listening, not agreeing here), can go a long way.
Later, you can have them present ideas for resolving things, and agree which ones to act on. Yes, you are still in control here. Remember that having them own their own solutions will help in the long term.
Sometimes, one child will seek to get another in trouble. This is typically done for attention and to feel like they have to “win”.
This can be a tricky situation for a parent to navigate. Do your best to focus on what came before the undesired behaviors. Was there a certain situation or event that triggered it? Become a bit of a detective and zoom out to see if you can see any patterns or causes.
When things calm down, involve both children in the resolution, and seek to avoid the triggers or patterns that created this. Over time, this will dissolve this pattern. You can also use an equal consequence (i.e. time out for both of you, no screen time for both of you), so they understand they both “loose” in this situation.
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Some disagreements are normal and natural, and it’s important to let your children learn to express themselves, disagree, and respect others.
Where possible, let them learn to work out conflicts on their own. If you allow them to develop healthy conflict-resolution styles chances are they will develop mature friendships and relationships when they are older. Encourage them to learn how to get along, apologize for mistakes and to forgive one another when hurt has been caused.
One useful apology formula can look like this (modify to what works for your family):
Sometimes parents compare kids to each other, and even complain about their siblings. Avoid this and remember they are not adults or friends – they are your children. Statements like “why can’t you be more like …” can be incredibly damaging. As hard as it is in the moment, remember something is triggering your child to act out. They don’t enjoy feeling this way either.
Do your best to encourage all of your children to develop into the unique beings that they are. If you are reading this, it means that you are a caring parent who is seeking the best for your family. That’s exceptional, and you should be proud of that.
Sometimes you may need outside help. If that’s the case, it means you are brilliantly smart and an even more capable parent for realizing the need and acting on it. Your family of origin or other factors may be at play, and a professional can often help resolve these quickly.
Thank you for seeking the best for your family!
Chris has worked in tech for 30 years, and healthcare tech for 8 of those. He's on the advisory board of Harvard-Based Think:Kids, and runs Rad Dad Rules. He is the proud Dad of two awesome kids, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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