Sibling Rivalry

If you have more than one child, you know the issues that can arise when one child feels left out or disadvantaged. Sometimes, rivalry exists over privileges an older child has, such as staying up later. And sometimes, rivalry exists over toys and even your attention. The arguments from sibling rivalry get old really fast, but what can you do as a father?

If you have more than one child, it is important that each child feel that you value him or her for who they are as an individual. Nothing can be more damaging to a child than being compared to another sibling. As your children grow and progress through life, remember that everyone progresses at a different rate and everyone has their own set of unique interests and abilities. Find things to praise each of your children for.

When children argue, it is a good idea to let them work out their problems, to a certain extent. If you are consistently stepping in to referee your children, inevitably, one child will feel that you are favoring the other child. This breeds feelings of resentment that will only grow and continue to make home life difficult. Remember, each of your children are vying for your attention. If you tend to show favor to one child, the other child will seek other ways to receive attention from you—even if it is negative.

Another reason it is a good idea to let your children work out their problems is that it teaches them valuable life skills. Children learn to negotiate and take care of themselves when they are made to come up with their own solutions. Do keep a careful eye on children when they argue and be ready to jump in if arguments get out of control or lead to physical aggression. Also, if one child ends up hitting the other child, do not simply punish the offender as that child may have put up with countless taunts and teasing before retaliating. Be sure to hear the whole story before punishing children.

If you have more than one child, you know that personalities can be as different as night and day. Sometimes, you may feel closer to the child that is more like you or more compliant. Be careful that you do not show favoritism. If one child causes more problems than the other, find something you can praise about him or her. Often times, a child is reacting to the way they feel they are being treated. And if you can change your perception of a difficult child, it may change how you interact with that child and could change how that child behaves.

While dealing with sibling rivalry issues, it is important to understand that treating your children equally is not the goal. Fairness is the goal. For example, when one child has a birthday, they are treated special and receive gifts from friends and family. The other children in the family receive no gifts. They are not being treated equally in this instance, nor should they be. Birthdays and special events should be special for the child who is being celebrated. Fairness comes in when it is the other child’s birthday and they receive the same type of treatment that their sibling received on his or her birthday. The treatment is not equal, but it is fair. Also, there may be times where one child needs more attention than another child, such as when an illness strikes. Even when you must provide more care and affection for one child than the other, be sure that the other child is not forgotten. While you cannot treat each child equally, you must strive to treat each child fairly.