To young siblings growing up together, life often appears as one long series of contests for everything from parental approval and cuddles to special treats and gifts. As parent, it’s up to you to help your children learn to set pettiness aside.
Here are 10 ways to make sure that your boys grow up friends, with as little rivalry as possible.
Get them close even before the baby arrives
Your first son doesn’t need to wait until his brother arrives to be friends with him. He can get a head start by being a part of your pregnancy. He can look at sonogram pictures, put his ear to your baby bump, and come with you on your appointments.
You can show your son his own sonogram pictures too, along with photos of him coming home from the hospital and other fun stuff. He’ll be able to connect his own birth to the birth of his new brother and feel wonderful about it all.
Don’t make the birth just about the new baby
Soon after the birth, you can usually tell which visitors arriving have experience with sibling rivalries – they’re be the ones who bring not just a gift for the baby, but one for the older child, as well. You should let the child be the one who unwraps the gifts for the baby, too.
The more important the part you give your first son, the more readily he will see his new brother as a welcome friend rather than as someone to compete with.
Work out how to make your son feel included
The time that you give the new baby can be the greatest friction point for an older sibling – it’s time that used to belong to him.
You should begin introducing your son to the concept of sharing long before the baby arrives.
Once the baby arrives, you can work on doing things in a way that makes you available to the older child as much as possible.
One of the best ways to do this is to make taking care of the new baby a two-person job – for you and your older child. While learning to be a caregiver, he will begin to love the baby he helps each day.
Start each day off with your first son
Starting each day off on the right foot can go a long way towards keeping feelings of possessiveness or jealousy away. First thing each day, you should give a half-hour of quality time to playing exclusively with your first son.
It will be a great investment – your son will be happy the rest of the day, knowing that his place with you is secure.
Give the older son important responsibilities
Once your son learns how to take care of the baby, you can leave him in his care from time to time and give him the job of comforting the baby when he cries, entertaining him and putting him to bed.
Since these really are important responsibilities, your son will learn that he is indispensable. It’s hard to feel resentful when you’re very important.
Put them to work together
As anyone who has worked with others towards a common goal knows, the very act of cooperation helps people like each other. As soon as both children are old enough to do things together, you can set them on tasks that they can manage.
They can put away their toys together or make little gifts when someone has a birthday.
Make sharing a huge part of your children’s lives
If the topic of sharing is only something that comes up occasionally in the family, your children may find it hard to grasp the concept.
Tell them a touching story about sharing each day and give them practice sharing their toys with their friends. Show them how beautiful a thing it is to give.
Never make comparisons
Comparisons are odious. Nothing fans the flames of sibling rivalry as much as a thoughtless comparison by a parent. No matter how clear the contrast between two siblings, resist the urge to say it out.
When rivalries do turn up
In spite of yor best efforts, rivalries usually will turn up over toys, game privileges and a dozen other things. If the squabbles are quite ones, you can let them play out at least some of the time.
When the bickering becomes unpleasant or too loud, though, you should step in with a stern warning.
Understand that it takes time for children to develop
Petty jealousy, competitiveness and resentment are all emotions that come very naturally to children. Higher concepts such as love, sharing and generosity come with time and development.
At three or four, children usually do not have the mental equipment that they need to process these concepts. You need to give it time.
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