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How to Deal with Your Kids' Sibling Rivalry

Learn how to deal with your kids' sibling rivalry in this Howcast video about child anxiety issues.


I'm going to talk about how to deal with your children's sibling rivalry. Now I think those two words often go together. I think those two words often go together in a sentence. As long as there are siblings, right away there is rivalry, because once there is more than one child in a family, two things happen: there is competition for attention, and there is just competition, because basically, children, when the rivalry is going on, it's often about wanting approval and attention from that person that's most important, and that's a parent. And then the other thing is that's going on is there is competition by who is better, and that's all about the social world that they are now born into when there is more than one of them. And so you're stuck with trying to figure out both of those things.

First, recognize that they just want you. Even when they're doing things that seems like bad behavior, it's what we call "negative attention-seeking," because they're trying to get all of you all the time. And you don't always realize that "No," that yelling, whatever it is, it's getting you in their life, and they like that, because then you're focused on them. So you need to think about how to change that part of the behavior so it's more positive, and that you're paying attention to when they are getting along and making sure that you're praising them for good sibling behavior.

The other thing is realize that some of sibling rivalry is a great testing ground for life, because you go out of your family and there are other people. They are bigger. They are stronger. They are different than you. You have a boss, and you're working with other colleagues. So kids need to learn how to get along with someone else on the playground, in the office, and just in life. So you don't want to rush in and solve all of those squabbles, because it's going to teach them "Somebody else will fix it for me." So sometimes you have to sit back and give them skills and have them talk it out, work it out, share. Give them all those tools and strategies that they are going to need later on. Sometimes they give in for the better good of the other person. Sometimes they go last instead of first. Sometimes they take turns. And so you have to think about if there is something that's physically destructive, if they're hurting each other too much, in terms of their bodies or their emotions, then yes, you need to be the one to protect all of your children from each other. But if not, you want to sometimes pause for a minute and think, "Maybe they can work this out," because you know what? You weren't there. They are going to argue about who started it and "She started it" and "He started it," and you can't always win. So sometimes what you want to do is "You guys try to work it out and let's see how that happens" and other times, it's "Okay, you're both getting put to your room, because I can't tell who was right and who was wrong," and other times, you just go in and protect and then give them those skills for later on, when you're not around, to make sure that they can solve their problems.

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