By Robert Nickell
As a daddy to seven kids between the ages of 5 months and 27 years old, I’ve learned a thing or two — first hand — about sibling rivalry. And through that experience I’ve come to understand a few ways in which to help manage the seemingly inevitable rivalry.
Here are my top five tips to help parents with sibling rivalry:
1. Allow each child time to shine. The first rule can come into play in a variety of ways. First of all, figure out what each child is really good at and encourage that activity. Let them know how proud you are of them and how wonderful they are at whatever activity they may be interested in. Keep in mind every child will likely excel in a different endeavor, which is a good thing when helping to diminish sibling rivalry. Children need to know they’re successful and have their very own, special niche. Secondly, make special time to spend alone with each of your children. For instance, you might have one child who is high-energy and likes to talk — a lot, and another who tends to be more quiet and reflective; you don’t want these two to constantly be competing for your attention. Make sure you set aside special times to share individually with each of your children. This special time will allow them to feel like they have your attention and will eliminate some need for sibling rivalry.
2. Be equal, just and fair. As a parent this is always a difficult task to accomplish. Most of us know by now that life, in general, isn’t fair. What I’m talking about here, however, is to practice fairness and equality in the way in which you treat your children. If they’re all on the same playing field they’ll be less likely to be battling one another because, let’s face it, they’ll be on the same team. At times, bending the rules may be easier but, when you’re a parent to multiple children, bending the rules for one will lead to sibling rivalry as one child will feel like they got the short end of the stick. When in doubt, just be fair and treat all of your children with love and respect.
3. Don’t make comparisons. Comparisons lead to competition, which will lead to sibling rivalry — bottom line. Never say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Remember that every child is an individual with unique thoughts, talents and emotions. And every child is incredible. Instead of making comparisons, try using positive reinforcements and pointing out what things each child does individually very well. This strategy will allow for less sibling rivalry.
4. Explore feelings and share openly. Those of you who often read my blogs and articles know I’m a firm believer in speaking openly and honestly with your children. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but giving children the opportunity to feel it’s OK to share their emotions openly is huge — on multiple levels. You’ll likely be shocked by the things they tell you, and it will probably be eye-opening as well. Sharing feelings and emotions, together as a family, will enable your children to care for one another and be more empathetic to others, too. If you can get your children to see the bigger picture through feelings and emotions they’ll be less likely to have the need to compete via sibling rivalry.
5. Lead by example. Remember as a dad you have big shoes to fill. Your children are ALWAYS watching you and learning from you, too. So it’s important to lead by example. Don’t be jealous of other people; be proud of the things you have and focus on the positive. A little competition can be beneficial, sure, as it can push you to try harder and do better, but there’s no need to teach your children to be over-competitive; instead it’s important to share with them that they can’t win at everything and there’s always something to be gained when we “lose.” Be the best dad you can be, and show your children ways in which they can solve their problems — before they lead to sibling rivalry.