Child rearing is challenging at the best of times. As new parents adjust to life with a baby, they work hard to come to terms with many changes. A complete overhaul of routine, extreme tiredness, and having a tiny, helpless, often noisy (and adorable!) being completely dependent on them day and night, can be taxing.
Throw sibling rivalry into the mix with multiples or subsequent babies, and suddenly parents face having to manage interpersonal conflict in children. Parents, among other things, must now navigate through relationships between brothers and sisters, not to mention between themselves and their children.
Sibling Rivalry: Building Relationships Between Brothers and Sisters
Most parents who juggle full-time work and family, live more and more busy lives as their children grow older. Adding other priorities into their day can mean that time spent with their children, and time spent thinking about managing sibling rivalry, diminishes.
Parents can spread themselves very thin. While managing interpersonal conflict between their children, it is a good idea to continue enjoying their own relationship together, fulfilling their individual dreams, and remembering to address their own needs every day.
Child Rearing Requires Parents to Focus on Specific Issues
In her book, The Baffled Parent’s Guide to Sibling Rivalry (Contemporary Books, 2003) Marian Edelman Borden suggests that if parents can’t find time with each child, she recommends including children in daily chores. Doing so not only leads to a reduction in parental workload at home, but also gives a child both one-to-one time while helping to build up a sense of responsibility.
She also suggests that a child who misbehaves may do so because deep down he seeks his parents’ attention. A parent’s inadvertent favoritism for one child over another can create a sense of insecurity, which may then prompt poor behavior. Borden offers a range of other useful tips that parents can readily implement as they steer their way through the amazing maze of life with children.
Interpersonal Conflict in Children and the Parental Role
Sibling fights often occur over common issues such as taking turns. Having one child take his turn on even days, the other on odd days is an effective way of reducing disagreements. Avoiding jumping to conclusions during fights also helps: the older child may not be the aggressor, and the younger child may not need rescuing. Making assumptions does neither child justice.
One of the strongest predictors of a long-term positive relationship between siblings is whether the older child takes a more helpful role with younger brothers or sisters. Discussing the principles of fair arguments with each child, assists in managing interpersonal conflict and, at the same time, fosters the sound, social skills needed as adults in the future. Parents can do their best to model these principles themselves too.
The Principles of Fair Arguments for Children
Understanding conflict and how to manage it in a positive, confident way, is an important life-lesson for children. Following these principles helps lay the foundations for future, effective social skills in children:
- Aggressive behaviour including hitting, kicking, and biting is never acceptable.
- Let siblings work out their differences themselves without parental interference unless real physical or emotional harm is being done.
- Don’t try to figure out who started the argument. It doesn’t matter.
- Separate siblings to different areas for awhile if they can’t resolve the dispute themselves. Separation prompts boredom which can move them to begin resolving the dispute.
Here’s how to ease sibling rivalry. Make sure that a younger child doesn’t become overshadowed by his older sibling/s by:
- Making time for one-to-one interaction with each child. They each need personal parental attention.
- Talking to each child about his feelings, and give each the opportunity to voice his frustrations without interruption and in an accepting environment.
- Encouraging each child to interact with each brother and sister separately in order to build individual relationships with his sibling/s.
- Social Skills in Children: Brothers and Sisters Learn From Each Other
- Becoming responsible adults starts with hanging up their wet towels in the bathroom or putting their dirty washing in the laundry. It progresses to taking care of themselves more and more, and eventually developing good social skills and a desire to do things for others.
Ultimately most parents hope that their children regard everyday chores and tasks as related to the broader world of how humans care for each other and the planet. Assisting their children in becoming effective, contributing citizens is a mammoth task that parents can aspire to do. Siblings learn from each other too, which assists in shaping their character.
Healthy Sibling Rivalry Lays the Groundwork
Sibling Rivalry is about building relationships between brothers and sisters. Child rearing requires parents to concentrate on specific issues such as taking turns, understanding underlying issues of behavior and implementing the principles of fair arguments.
Understanding the parental role in interpersonal conflict in children goes a long way in raising happy children. Parents who encourage their children to interact constructively with their brothers and sisters, and gently guide their children through sibling rivalry, lay the groundwork for effective social skills in children.