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29 Sept 2022

Positive Parenting: Taking the ‘ouch’ out of sibling rivalry

Positive Parenting: Taking the ‘ouch’ out of sibling rivalry

Siblings may be jealous of and harbor resentment toward one another. The main causes of sibling rivalry are lack of social skills, concerns with fairness, individual temperaments, special needs

IT'S A universal issue the world over – the see-sawing of emotions between siblings. Best friends, outright foes and everything in between. Sibling relationships are very complex but also extremely unique because nobody else understands the context of your upbringing or your family’s dynamics like your sibling(s).
If you are a parent of more than one child, whether toddlers, tweenies or teenagers, it’s inevitable that you spend a fair amount of your time playing referee. Sometimes you encourage turn-taking and playing nice …….and sometimes you resort to bribery with nice treats or threats involving the end of screen time. Sound familiar? Well the good news is that a certain amount of discontent between brothers and sisters is beneficial to the development of key social skills. It’s an opportunity for them to learn how to share, to see something from someone else’s perspective, to develop empathy and become problem-solvers. There is also the in-built company and readily available playmate (if the age gap allows) element where you have more than one child. Yes, they might bicker like cat and dog some days but on rainy days, when nobody else is around, they will play together and entertain each other.

There will be times when you feel like the arguments between your children are maybe too much of a daily occurrence or are draining all positivity from your home. For those times, there are a few things that you could try: Firstly, don’t always intervene. Read the situation and gauge how much you can leave them to it so they can resolve it between them. Obviously, if biting (a toddler favourite) or giving a dead arm (the teenage go-to) is involved, you need to step in and explain that disagreements aren’t ever resolved physically. If they both want the same toy, hang back and give them an opportunity to work it out; Teach them to embrace their differences and similarities and to recognise them in each other, so that a more confident, outspoken sister doesn’t always shout down her quieter brother; Remind them often how lovely it is that they have each other; Finally, one of the most effective things you can teach your children is to give each other space – when they are respectful of that and know when to walk away, you might find that you need to use the referee’s whistle a lot less.
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parenting and family support organisations. For more information on this and other topics go to www.loveparenting.ie.

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