When you have more than one child, chances are you have found yourself caught in the middle of the crossfire of sibling rivalry quite a few times throughout your parenting career. “Mom, He hit me!” “He took my toy!” “She called me meany..” Sounds familiar?
“Our children form their image of who they are from the words they hear—and words that come from an older sibling often have more credibility than those from parents,” says Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World.
Before having kids, I had this fantasy that my children would just magically get along and become each other’s best friends. Now, I realize that reality is a lot different and that sibling relationships can get a little tricky. Factors like a child’s temperament as well as your relationship as a parent with each child all can have an impact. While your youngest feels inadequate, your firstborn probably wonders if you love her as much as you love the little one. Then, there is the middle child syndrome which just makes you just want to separate all the kids.
We don’t make things easier on ourselves as well. Most of us are busy moms, and our schedules are jam packed. So, dealing with children bickering throughout the day can get very stressful and overwhelming at times. Don’t you just wish that your children would just “get it” and learn how to manage conflicts among themselves? I know I would.
But we have to also understand that these skills are not necessarily “built in” and they are actually quite complex skills to learn. Alhamdullilah, we can help our children build their relationships with each other by using a few simple but effective strategies.
Tips on how you can nurture sibling relationships
- Encourage cooperative play rather than competitive play as much as possible. Positive experiences are at the core of relationships, and for children, playing together is one of the best ways to create these experiences. Choosing the right kind of games is also equally important, because competitive games can backfire and lead to resentment rather than joy.
- Teach your children how to be empathetic as it is essential for them to build relationships in general. I like to ask them the questions like “How do you think you would feel if you were in his/her shoes?” to get them feeling for the other person.
- Try not to show favoritism between your children as it can cause envy and resentment. While it is not your job to treat each child as if they were carbon copies of each other, make sure that each child knows you appreciate their unique qualities.
- Relationships can evolve over time and can strengthen, as well as weaken. Constantly remind your children of all the positive memories they had together growing up. If you have pictures, you might want to try showing them pictures of them sharing happy moments together. Likewise, You can also relate stories orally.
- Talk about the positive experiences you had with your own siblings growing up as a source of inspiration.
- Encourage your children to compliment each other by asking them, “What do you like best about your sister or brother”
- Make sure your children spend enough time together, and are not isolated within their own world. There is nothing sadder than having a lot of kids under the same roof but each living in their own bubble.
- Build Team spirit by having your children participate in shared goals such as saving money together to buy something, or working on a project together.
- Read them stories in the Quran about sibling relationships, both positive and negative, to show them the outcomes of each.
- Teach your children conflict resolution skills. While it is impossible for your children to avoid conflicts altogether, teaching them how to resolve them in a healthy way not only can lead to better sibling relationships but to their other relationships further down the road.
- Encourage them to help each other, or do good deeds for each other in order to please Allah (s.w.t.) I like to tell mine that Allah is watching how they treat their brother or sister that he gave them, and whether they are appreciating his gift to them. Remind them also that some children do not have siblings and long to have one.
- Make sure you spend quality time with each child so that they feel special, and less likely to feel envious towards the other children.
How do you deal with Sibling rivalry?