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Two young sisters, aged 8 and 11, seem to be in constant competition, and their parent, “Looking for Peace of Mind,” is concerned about how to handle competitive siblings and why kids are competitive with siblings. They contend over everything, from the size of the pie slices to finishing homework fastest and even who gets to take a shower first. “Looking for Peace of Mind” recognizes that sibling rivalry is a normal phenomenon, but she is eager to find ways to handle sibling rivalry and reduce competition between siblings. Can you offer some guidance on how to reduce competition between siblings and how to handle sibling rivalry?
— Seeking Solutions for Sibling Rivalry
Dear Seeking Solutions for Sibling Rivalry,
The challenge you’re facing is a familiar one for many parents. Sibling rivalry has been a part of family dynamics throughout history, and it remains prevalent today. While the competition your daughters engage in is not as dramatic as the biblical tale of Joseph and his brothers, the underlying reasons are similar—they both desire parental attention and recognition.
To reduce competition between your girls and handle their sibling rivalry, it’s crucial to act as a mediator, impartially listening to their perspectives and helping them communicate effectively. Avoid taking sides, as it can exacerbate the situation, leaving one child feeling misunderstood or unimportant. Instead, strive to interact with them on equal footing, demonstrating effective communication and modeling the behavior you wish to see in them.
As parents, showing equal love and support to our children is essential, though it may be challenging to balance interactions according to their unique personalities and needs. Each child is different, and acknowledging and celebrating their individuality can foster a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of favoritism.
Encourage your daughters to pursue their distinct interests and talents. By celebrating their uniqueness, you affirm their contributions to the family and instill confidence in their abilities.
When disagreements arise, allow them the space to calm down before facilitating a discussion. Encourage open and loving communication, helping them express their feelings and understand each other’s perspectives. Is one sister hurt because the other didn’t want to share a favorite toy? Does the younger one feel insecure when seeing her older sibling do things without supervision? Teaching your daughters loving and open communication will foster a better mutual understanding and reduce competition between them.
Amidst the busyness of life, create moments for bonding with your children. Even dedicating just 15 minutes to cuddling or reading a bedtime story will do wonders for your relationship with your children —and their relationship with each other.
Fostering a supportive and empathetic environment will enable your daughters to navigate their differences and build a stronger sibling relationship. With patience, understanding, and effective communication, you can reduce competition between siblings and handle sibling rivalry, bringing more peace to your home.
I hope these suggestions prove helpful in creating a more harmonious family atmosphere.
Love and blessings,
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A 3xTEDx speaker, media contributor, parenting coach, and a mom of two - helping families thrive by using the Guidance Approach to Parenting.