I only had one child so I never had to deal with sibling rivalry. My daughter had all of my attention. My daughter has two children, a boy and a girl. They are exactly one year and two days apart. Some days you just have to laugh because they are so ridiculous in their jealousy.
Sibling rivalry often starts before the second child is even born. It continues as they grow and they begin to fight over everything from toys to attention. It is normal for brothers and sisters to fight, or sisters if the case may be. They will go back and forth between loving and hating each other.
We are going through a new phase of jealousy in our house. Cornell is two and has started all those great developmental leaps. He’s forming words more clearly and learning to do things on his own. So, of course, when he does we tend to give him lots of praise for doing good. Now we did the same for Nyla but of course she doesn’t remember that. She just sees her brother getting all the attention and she wants it.
Nyla has all of a sudden become this extremely sensitive little girl who will cry if you look at her sideways. Cornell is eating it up. It’s frustrating for me and my daughter because we get tired of listening to the crying and fighting all the time.
Besides the jealousy, there are other reasons a brother and sister might fight a lot. Evolving needs for example. Toddlers are naturally protective of their toys and belongings. They are learning to assert their will and will do it every chance they get. Role models play a part as well. Children will watch and learn how parents resolve disputes.
What do you do when the sibling rivalry starts?
Whenever possible, try to stay out of it. The only time you want to step in is if there is a threat of physical harm. If you always step in then your kids are never going to learn how to solve their own problems and will look to you
to fix everything. If you do have to step in then try and help them resolve the problem not solve it for them.
A few things you can do:
- Separate the children until they calm down
- Don’t place blame – it takes two to fight
- Help them see a win-win situation
This last one reminds me of a cute story. Nyla has been doing this for about six months or so. We don’t know where she got it from but it just blew us away that she knew to do this. Cornell always wanted to have her toys. I think she tried fighting him at first but he’s a stocky and solid boy whereas Nyla is thin as a rail. Don’t get me wrong, she can hold her own when she gets mad.
One day she finally got this bright idea. Cornell was playing with one of her toys and she wanted it. She went to the toy box, picked out another toy, took it to her brother and got him to trade her toys. What two year old thinks to barter?
There are some things you can do to help prevent fights to begin with.
- Set some ground rules – what you will and will not accept
- Let them know everything is not fair and equal – sometimes one child will need more than the other
- Make one-on-one time with each child doing something that interests them
- Always tell them you love them – make them feel safe, loved and important
- Have family fun together – even if it’s just throwing a stuffed animal at each other (guilty!)
- Recognize when they need time apart and try to arrange separate play dates
Oh, and please oh please tell your children no now and then. It is so good for them to hear.
Now that we have recognized the problem at home, we try to give Nyla a little attention too
when we praise Cornell. It is difficult sometimes, especially when they both want to be held at the same time by the same person. We manage the best we can and that is all any parent can do.