Combating Sibling Rivalry: Tips for Peace and Affection
It’s going to happen, so you might as well be prepared. Even between toddler and preschooler, combating sibling rivalry can feel like the biggest part of your parenting day. Here are a few simple tips, mind-sets actually, to create peace between toddler and preschooler and maybe instill a sense of camaraderie and affection.
This might be a great time to freshen up on development expectations, if you haven’t already done so. After all, siblings are individuals with unique needs. Especially for toddlers, asserting their will and physicality is a new, and fun, concept. Preschoolers understand societal norms, like sharing and not hitting. Your parental expectations should be dependant on developmental factors specific to your individual child.
Model Your Expectations
Never discount your influence on a child’s negative behaviors. If your preschooler is shouting or name calling, look to your own communication skills for reasons why. Modeling healthy ways to resolve conflict, whether with your spouse or sibling, will positively impact the way your children will. Modeling family unity and togetherness also helps to show your preschooler that team work and compromise is something that even adults have to work at.
Promote Team Work
As parents, we understand the developmental stages of toddlerhood. Your preschooler, however, could care less. Promote team work and camaraderie in your preschooler by asking them to model a behavior or skill for the youngest. Solicit their expertise in, say, shape sorting, and when the toddler achieves success, congratulate your preschooler for a job well taught.
Land the Helicopter—Don't Hover
As fun as it sounds, resist the urge to constantly interject when an argument ensues. Provided no one is about to get hurt, playing referee between your toddler and preschooler guarantees winner and loser characteristics that can linger much longer the argument. In fact, since the core of sibling rivalry is rooted in parental attention, if you feel comfortable, remove yourself from the immediate surroundings entirely and see if they can figure it out.
Don't Give In
Sure, giving in to toddler’s wants is the quickest way to reduce the barrage of noise, but “just give it to him” isn’t a viable method of conflict resolution. Constantly pacifying the baby creates victimized, rescued child dynamics. Mix it up by diverting your toddler’s attention to a new toy. Set the oldest up for play out of reach, say at the kitchen table or another room. Realize that being a good sibling doesn’t always mean giving in.
State Your Family Values
To combat sibling rivalry, your family has to honor something else. Be it politeness, assertiveness, personal space, sympathy or a combination of it all, your kids (no matter what their age) won’t know what you value unless you tell them. Even young toddlers can benefit from consistent reinforcement of the family values, and certainly your preschooler will appreciate that too. “Speak with kindness”, “Use your big kid voice”, “Hands to yourself” are all statements that assert your family values.
Be the Coach
Coaches give instruction and create game plans, but they also offer pep talks. Coach your preschooler on using better words to describe their emotions. By coaching them on how to negotiate and compromise, while helping them understand their siblings’ limitations in communication, etc, you’re setting up a play by play that is destined to benefit their bond well into adulthood.
Slow it Down
At such different stages, sometimes our youngest needs the pace to slow down a bit so that they can catch up. Whether it is during play or conversation, toddlers can feel left out too. Slow down the environment, giving baby ample time to maneuver the toy or word, while quietly recalling when your oldest was a baby. Kids love to hear about themselves, and realizing that they were a baby needing extra time can create empathy.
One vs. One
Sibling rivalry is, at its core, about attention. There is a resource that is obviously less scarce (your time) and the competition for it is fierce. Carve out moments of one-on-one attention with each child, being truly focused on their individuality. All other efforts to create sibling peace in your household can be diminished without a reward system in place. And the ultimate reward for any kid is special time with the people they love most.
Make Your Message Limitless
You love your kids with everything you have, so make sure they know it! While your time is scarce, your love is not. Tell them, frankly, that the love you have for them can’t expire and doesn’t run out. Send messages that your love is limitless, competition is fruitless and that watching their bond flourish is what makes you truly happy.
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