Sibling rivalry can tear a family apart — can it be prevented?
From the moment that second baby is born –everything is different. Sibling rivalry happens. It can be hard for parents who love both kids.
Sure, love multiplies it isn’t divided. But, time, attention and money aren’t the same. They simply are divided. There’s no way around it.
I’ve seen babies who were complete angels turn into demons once that next sibling comes. Suddenly the law of competition is introduced into their life….
Don’t fool yourself into the fact that anyone in your house is prepared for that next baby. Whether it’s your 2nd or 22nd – things are going to change.
Of course, many kids are fine with the baby. I’ve seen kids who are so sweet with the baby. It warms your heart – but once that baby knocks down their lego tower…. The gloves are off.
Over time I’ve learned a few tips that I wanted to share about sibling rivalry.
Many of these tips come from one of my favorite books “Siblings Without Rivalry” that I read when my 2nd was pretty small. Of course, he’s now 13, so since then – I’ve adjusted many to fit our life.
**These are just some ideas, don't implement them all, but think about how they rest on your mind - does one seem like an area you could work on -- concentrate on that for a bit. Each of these might not be right for each family/circumstances. These kids are yours for a reason.**
What’s it feel like to have a new sibling?
You know, I hadn’t really ever thought of it. I never had siblings younger than me. I figured it was hard — but I love this analogy:
In that book, she compares having a new sibling to your husband getting a new wife…
How would you feel if the newer, prettier, younger wife comes – and everyone compliments her?
I remember this analogy every time one of my friends has a baby too. It’s a rough time and all the kids at the house need lots of attention.
My main rule, that is unless there is a possibility of blood – in general, I leave it alone. They can fight it out on their own.
Sometimes, if a fight is prolonged, I will do a timeout and state each kid’s position – just so that no communication issues are causing the issue. Especially with small kids – their communication skills are so rough, that can really help re-state each kid’s argument.
Sometimes I give ideas on ways to solve something if the fight continues…
But, me solving their problems means the problem will keep happening….
Also, I try to fill any needs that might cause them to hangry, etc. Keeping kids fed and sleeping & busy helps a lot of these issues ….
Each Child get what THEY need
Sometimes I feel like if I buy one a new t-shirt, I should buy them all one. BUT, only one NEEDS a T-shirt, or I found something that’s just perfect for THEM.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be looking to even it out. You can’t always bring home the new shirt to your favorite kid… you have to even it out. But each child having their moment in the sun can help them anticipate the day you do it for them, rather than feeling sorry for themselves.
Or, even *gasp* be happy for their sibling.
And when they get that item – be sure to shower them with “them”-ness – why they needed it, why you thought of them. The whole nine yards.
Kids thrive on structure. By having some things that they can always “count on” it helps them even when some of the rest of the day is kind of random.
This can go for chores as well – rotate who picks up the dog pop, or empties the dishwasher (rotate jobs that everyone can do).
Having a way to even things out so that each one is getting “tortured” helps a lot.
The Importance of Feelings
When I had my last baby, the pediatrician came in and did a once-over of the baby and then sat down to talk to me about my other kids.
I’m not sure if he does that with everyone.
But he reminded me of a true statement.
The baby won’t get its feelings hurt if it has to wait 5 minutes to be fed, but your other one will.
A crying baby can feel SO pressing. God intended it to be that way.
But your other kid notices when you take the time to settle them before settling the baby.
It really is the small things that can remind them you love them too.
The Importance of One on One Time
That same pediatrician recommended that I set up one on one time with my other child that was set each day. So, we did.
The first nap after lunch I took 20 minutes to read, play, whatever he wanted to do.
And guys — I was SO tired. I wanted to lay on the floor and sleep — but those 20 minutes were something I could tell he clung to. We’d had vast swaths of one on one time before the baby – -but they were limited now.
I didn’t keep that up for too long, but for the first few weeks, it was super important.
The same thing goes now. My 17 year old takes the vast majority of my parenting time, and brain power, hopes and wishes. But I have 2 other kids who also need some attention.
Great one on one times:
- Making dinner
- Packing lunches
- Going to the grocery store
- Watching a TV show together (that you both like)
- Helping them clean up their room
- Folding Laundry together
It doesn’t have to be BIG stuff — and the good news is that sometimes one on one time is best when you are being productive. It gives your hands something to do.
Clearly, you can also take them out to dinner, or a movie, but the reality is that THOSE things can’t be done all that frequently by a busy mom. I try to do one of these things with each kid each week. I also try for some interaction daily where it’s just them and me.
Seriously guys, baby steps. We’re busy! Just smoosh it in when you can!
Positive Family Experiences
Try to build into your life FUN times!
FUN family experiences where kids can get along. Where they can forget the rivalry, and realize that life is great, even when you’re doing it together.
I must admit that this is one of the reasons I like Disneyland so much. It seems to drop a lot of that, and they just have a good time together. We did Yellowstone last summer, and while it was fun — the kids were a little bored, and fighting was higher than I would have liked.
I will say that the times my kids fight the most are “down” times where they don’t have much to do (or sometimes it’s when they have too much to do).
Anyway — try to think of a fun family activity to do each month. Something that takes you out of the house — it can be a hike, a BBQ at the park or something else. Don’t invite friends — make it just your family so that kids are required to combine just with each other.
Most of all, I think you need to give yourself a break
Kids are going to fight. Co-workers often fight, and they’re only together 40’ish hours/week. Kids are together day in and day out. It is an important step in learning how to navigate relationships together.
By giving your child a sibling, you really are giving them a gift. It just happens to be a two-edged sword.
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