BEST STARTS FOR KIDS

Sibling Rivalry Solutions

1. Ensure the arrival of a new baby is a positive experience for a sibling.

  • Explain... 'there used to be just us, but we shared our time, space and love with you and it made life better for everyone. And now we're all going to share our lives with someone else... A baby.'

  • Show ultrasound pictures of the baby in the mother's tummy so siblings can see what it looks like. Let them cuddle their mother's tummy. Answer any questions they may have in age appropriate ways. Let them feel involved.

  • Depending upon the age of the sibling you could discuss that having more family members can help make a family stronger & more fun. Then they know long term, there will likely be something positive, for them, by having a sibling.

  • Let them choose a special gift for their younger sibling and be involved in wrapping it up so that when they're introduced, they have something to give them. Have a gift from the baby for your existing child in return, to help create a positive bond & reduce sibling rivalry.

  • Where ever possible, while the sibling is being born, have a positive plan in place for your existing child to have a fun experience with a trusted caregiver. When they visit, let them tell you about all the exciting things they've done. Listen. Show them your exciting news.

  • Over the months prior to the birth of a sibling, link special privileges to your child behaving in more mature ways. Praise them for being responsible, thoughtful, kind, etc. this can give them a new positive script.

 

  • Tackle existing behavioural issues before the sibling is born. e.g. being noisy. If they're capable of being quiet before a sibling arrives, they're not going to be reprimanded for waking the baby, thus reducing opportunities for resentment & sibling rivalry.

4. Model & expect respect in your household

  • Praise your children for playing well together  rather than waiting to comment until there's a problem

  • Both parents model being well mannered with all members of the family

 

  • Both parents present a united front to explain respect is an expectation for your family and being disrespectful will be followed up with natural consequences

  • Both parents remain calm during challenging situations, reinforcing new expectations consistently, by using praise and natural consequences

5. Provide simple strategies for children to negotiate and resolve conflict

  • Put simple sharing routines in place so that siblings get to take turns with popular toys.

1. Ask using please.

2. Wait for the toy to be relinquished rather than attempt to take it

3. When the toy is supplied say 'thank you' and ask if there's anything the sibling might like in return

4. If the toy is not relinquished turn on a five minute  timer. When the timer goes off the toy is relinquished.

  • Have common toys. But also have some special toys that are off limits to younger siblings. This maintains age appropriate privileges. You could encourage children to play with their special toys when siblings are otherwise occupied e.g. being breast fed or having a nap.

7. Share resources and time fairly.

  • Use large sand hourglass timers so children can see they're being treated fairly. Children can see their time is coming up so there's a pay off for waiting. This a way of teaching delayed gratification.

  • Spend time playing open-ended cooperative games with your children so they learn how to play well together. Having fun together helps reduce sibling rivalry.

  • For a child who thinks it's okay not to share fairly, hogging more of the better toys, ask them if they think the allocation is fair. If they think it is ask them to trade places.

Imagine for a moment your partner came home and said 'You're going to be really happy. I'm bringing someone else home. And you're going to get to share my time, your wardrobe, your clothes, shoes & space with them. How wonderful will that be for you?

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When kids can be naturally set up by circumstance to experience sibling rivalry how do you overcome it?

Solutions to help overcome sibling rivalry:

  • Stack it for the arrival of a sibling to be as positive as possible

 

  • Praise each child's behaviour publicly but praise their unique characteristics privately

  • Spend quality time with individual children doing something they like... Then they feel valued

 

 

  • Share parent time & family resources fairly so your child learns there is enough to go around

2. Be positive about each child's many unique qualities & praise what each child offers the family

 

  • Comment on the many individual strengths of your child, when you're alone together. Private praise reduces competition between siblings and therefore reduces the likelihood of siblings comparing themselves,  reducing rivalry.

  • Praise cooperation, thoughtfulness, manners, kindness publicly as those are children's actions and are not their permanent characteristics like being smart, athletic, attractive, etc.

3. Ensure your older child gets quality individual time when the sibling arrives

  • Share the responsibility of the new child so the existing child, or children, get some special time of their own

  • Set up predictable routines so your child knows they will get quality time alone with you

6. Both parents explain your home is a safe place for everyone. No one is allowed to be disrespectful, mean or violent to others. Parents need to follow up meanness and violence every time.

  • If siblings are being mean with one another, follow up with natural consequences. e.g. If they can't play nicely, they can spend time alone.

  • Repeated disrespect, meanness or violence can result in loss of privileges. Ensure the loss of privilege is something they will really miss. e.g. T.V, a favourite game, an activity

  • Find out what the motivation is for a child to target a sibling: jealousy, boredom, attention seeking, poor social skills or entitlement (they think they can get away with being mean,) and discuss finding better ways to resolve their issue.

  • Appeal to 'what's in it for a sibling,' if they change. e.g. 'One day when we're too old to help you any more, having a kind brother or sister is a good thing to have, because they can help look after you. We want to have two strong children to look after each other.... But in the meantime we can all do things like play hidies in the dark together.  (You will need to ensure the area is safe prior to commencing the game.)

  • Role play. You can swap & be the child, letting your children be the parents. Let them see & hear hear how better play may result in more fun. You may even like to trial being a difficult child once in a while and spending a little time in time out.

8. Encourage children to be appreciative rather than entitled.

  • Children who are appreciative are more inclined to play cooperatively with others rather than demand they have their own way or get a disproportionate amount of the toys.

  • Play five minute swaps so children get to play with exactly the same toys their siblings were playing with. This encourages fairer allocation of resources.

  • Young children are largely egocentric. Children may need to be educated about fairness and equity to raise the awareness of it for them.

For specific information on improving behaviour go to the following links:

Tool Kit 1: Curbing Disrespect
Curbing disrespect
Tool Kit 2: Pushing Boundaries
Kids who push boundaries
4 Ways to Develop Cooperative Kids
4 ways to develop cooperative kids. Child helping her mother do the shopping.
Boundaries Help Raise Good Kids
Setting Boundaries
Choosing Gratitude Not Entitlement
A girl kissing her father
Why Natural Consequences?
The Value of Natural Consequences
Show More

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