Sibling rivalry is a big issue and it’s one that comes up a lot when I’m working with families. If you’re struggling, you’re certainly not alone. I’m aware that there are not a lot of resources around for to help either.
Now obviously there’s a really fine balance. Your kids are kids. There is always going to be some sibling rivalry. That’s the nature of kids. Winding up our brothers and sisters is normal, but sometimes that sibling rivalry tips over and is more than just playing around or just trying to get our brothers or sisters in trouble, which I know I certainly did as a kid!
Sometimes one child is not engaging in sibling rivalry at all and it’s all the other child winding them up, treating them unfairly or being unkind.
I see these types of worries in all types of families, and many are affected by it. Depending on the makeup of your family, the reasons for the issues will be slightly different, therefore we need to adapt the way we respond to ensure that it’s appropriate.
We really need to be aware that we’re not just focusing on one child and really look at how we can help all children in the family with whatever their needs are. When we’re working with siblings, we need to think about the fact that they are children and that it is our job as parents to support our child by to helping them learn and develop. It’s not about asking for one of the children to be more grown up and manage the other child’s feelings and emotions. That doesn’t mean that we can’t teach them how to manage their own emotions, how to walk away from conflict and how to not ‘poke the bear’ for want of a better phrase.
Skills for life
We can absolutely teach our children to de-escalate. They can use that skill in any aspect of their life. If they’re at school and they’ve got somebody who’s winding them up, they can de-escalate that situation. Or if they’ve got brothers and sisters at home that keep winding them up, they can learn to de-escalate that situation and that’s a skill they will use for the rest of their life. We all know that as adults, we are constantly de-escalating, whether it’s our kids, our partner, our friends or the guy in the supermarket behind us who’s getting annoyed with the length of time it’s taking to pack our bags. If we can teach our kids that skill, that’s a skill for life.
If we look at the other aspects of NVR, we can teach them things like reconciliation gestures, looking after themselves and what’s important to focus on, in an age appropriate manner.
There are different ways we can help our children to learn how to de-escalate potentially tricky situations. Here are just some examples:
1. Teach them some deep breathing techniques to help them stay calm in the moment
2. Show them how to walk away
3. Enable them to have the confidence to come to you and start talking about something else to distract them and disconnect from their sibling
4. Teach them distraction techniques like putting the radio on or asking Alexa to play some silly tunes.
De-escalation and distraction techniques will help them to feel in control in the moment. Reducing any anxiety they are feeling. This increased calmness will impact on their sibling as well.
Resources and support
Through my training and support in The Connective Parenting Hub, I can help you discover the Connective Parenting NVR approach and we can work together, in our community of other parents who “get it”, to help create a sibling relationship in your home.
If you’re a professional who works with children and families, click here for more helpful resources and support.