WT 019: How Do I Prevent Sibling Rivalry?
If you have more than one child, there’s a good chance you’ve thought a lot about sibling rivalry. On today’s episode, Karen and Sunny talk about how to work through your kid’s fighting, how to prepare them for a new baby, jealousy and even how your own relationship with your siblings might affect your kid’s relationship with theirs.
Question 1: “My children will not stop fighting! How do I teach them the importance of being friends and fans of each other, not rivals? To be honest, having them grow up and not be close is one of my biggest fears.”
Karen’s Answer: It sounds simple, but the first thing to do is to realize that Fear is not from God. The second thing is to realize that—as hard as we moms may try—we cannot “make” our children be close. However, you can teach them how to love one another and put other people before yourself.
Honestly, this is something that I still experience even though my children are grown. When they were little the way I punished them for fighting and I wouldn’t let them have play time with friends until they start treating their siblings like a friend. This was the best thing I could have done, and sometimes went on for months, until that child got it. Another thing I would do was to not get involved with the fights unless there was blood shed. I would tell my children to work it out. They knew that if it got to the point where I would get involved, everyone would be punished.
Remember, anytime you are with someone 24/7 friction is bound to happen—and it’s no different with our kids. It’s completely normal. So try to defuse situations when you can, by separating siblings when needed. Sometimes it is just best when everyone goes to their corners.
Question 2: “We are expecting baby number three soon. We are very excited but we’re nervous about the transition, as my oldest didn’t handle a new sibling and losing mommy’s attention very well the last time. What can I do to make them feel excited and included instead of jealous when their new sibling arrives?”
Karen’s Answer: I love this question! I think it starts with setting expectations. Tell them that mommy will be in the hospital for a few days and when you come home there’s going to be a new baby to join your family. One thing that I did was constantly tell them that “you’re the best big brother” or “you’re the best big sister.” I would also tell them what a good helper they were going to be to mommy. Another thing that I did was bring home a gift from the new sibling, Abby brought Taylor a truck and so he instantly loved her.
When the baby is home, it’s important to follow through with your actions. If you tell your child
“I’m feeding the baby right now, but I will help you in 5 minutes” make sure that when you are done feeding the baby you put them down and go help your other child. The hardest part about having multiple children is remembering that you have multiple children. It’s so easy to lump them all together, but they each have their own needs and need undivided attention from you.
Question 3: “My two teenage girls get along really well, other than the occasional fight over the bathroom. However, there’s an underlying sense of competition that I can sense between them. It’s so subtle that I don’t think they’re aware of it… but when one of them has a personal, athletic or academic achievement—the other one is quick to remind me that she also has accomplished a lot. Please help! I don’t want them growing up to resent each other.”
Karen’s Answer: This is a classic case of the age-old word: Jealousy. It’s ugly and we ALL have it. My advice is to sit with whichever daughter is having a jealous moment and have a private conversation with her where you point it out in love. Tell her that she doesn’t need to remind you how amazing she is, you already think she is amazing. Let her know that it’s really nice to celebrate others and let them shine.
In our house we named Jealousy “the Green Monster.” After a while I would just say, “What’s on your back right now?” They’d reply , “The Green Monster”. I would say, yes, and what are you going to do about it? They would say, get it off my back.
Don’t be afraid to call out ugly behaviors in your children. Your job as a mom is point out things in love and to guide and teach your child what to do with REAL issues in life. Jealousy is real. It goes back to the beginning of time to Cain and Abel.
Teaching your children to celebrate each other takes time. It does not happen overnight. But, it is a trait that will stay with your children for a lifetime and will spill over to other people.
Question 4: “I don’t personally have the best relationship with my siblings, but that’s not something I want my children to experience. I know that kids are excellent observers and can see the example I’ve set for them. How do I tell them the importance of being close to your siblings, when I’m not exactly setting an example with my actions?”
Karen’s Answer: Depending on how old your children are, I’d own your behavior and say, “I wish I were closer to my siblings.” Or “I would love for you to have a different relationship with your siblings than I do with mine.”
I have three sisters. Over the years I must confess that I’ve been closer to some over others. But, God truly convicted me with the sister that I was not close to. God started pressing on my heart to love her, reach out to her and fill in the gap. We were adults and not close at all. But, I kept working on it, and today we are very close. So I know it’s hard, but bottom line is that God calls each of us to love.
Begin pointing out ways your children CAN be close to their siblings.
Attend the ball games they are playing in, dance recitals, etc.
Find common ground
Love them for who they are
Siblings are so important. A few years ago my sisters and I realized we were growing apart due to busy lives, growing families and we started having “sister days” where the four of us would go off and do something together. Each sister plans a day and it’s fun. Yes, we still get is fusses, but overall we have fun!