As any parent knows, children are literal beings – especially when it comes to the idea of fair treatment within the family. If one child needs to stay home from school because she is sick, her sister will wonder why she still has to go to school (to her, the fact that she is not sick will have no relevance). Children often even hate the fact that birthdays tend to arrive one child at a time.
How do you deal with these endless clashes that your children bring up? The answer is, you need to understand the way children’s minds work and use your knowledge to create an approach that works for your children. The following suggestions here will give you a few good ideas on how to handle siblings battles.
1. Keep explaining your reasons
Children caught up in the heat of resentment over a rivalry are rarely ever in any mood to listen to reason. Yet, these situations are excellent opportunities to teach your children the importance of logic.
The hundredth time that you go through different lines of reasoning for why it is sometimes appropriate to allow different kinds of treatment for each child, you will begin to get through to them. You simply have to keep working away with patience.
2. Help them understand what’s important
Very young children instinctively equate fairness with identical treatment. Each time trouble flares up among your children, you should find a different way to explain to them why the two are not the same. Try to show them what the baseline really is – that each child should get what she needs, rather than get the same thing as the other kids.
3. Listen to them
When a child fights with her sibling over a perceived instance of unfairness, often, her real complaint could lie elsewhere. Try to get them to explain why exactly they feel a situation is unfair. You may stumble upon complaints that you never knew existed.
4. Ask them to be a judge
While it can take forever to get through to a child who is hot with resentment, you can try a new approach – give up your position as parent for a few minutes and ask your child to step into your shoes. What kind of decision would the child recommend? Children usually quickly become reasonable when they are placed in a position of responsibility.
5. Do not let arguments drag on
With children (and also most adults) logic and reason begin to stop working once an argument lasts over a few minutes. If an argument seems to not reach a conclusion quickly, it only means that your children need time. You should consider putting your foot down and telling them that they should trust you sometimes. You can try explaining your reasons the next time a problem comes up.
6. Discuss the battles in other homes
While children tend to have a hard time understanding the concept of fairness in their own situation, they can be remarkably logical when they are not personally involved. It can be far easier to help them understand your point when you keep bringing examples of sibling rivalries in other families to them.
The more you do this, the more you will let them see how petty arguments make no sense. Then, they will be able to transfer these lessons to their own situation.
7. Teach them magnanimity
Even if a child does feel that a sibling is getting away with more, it is possible to make her see that it is a nice thing to be generous and magnanimous. Pick a moment when your children are getting along to help them see how giving is a wonderful thing.
8. Make them care for one another
When a child is repeatedly placed in a situation where she is made to take care of a sibling, she will soon develop protective instincts. When a sibling is adamant about something, she will be happy to let her have her way because she sees herself in a protective role.
You can help your children develop such love and caring for one another by making them take care of one another in different ways – making each other treats, teaching one another things and so on.
9. Teach them about team spirit
If you can help your children feel like they are a team, rather than rivals, they will often learn to let problems slide. While sports and games can help, making children work together on projects at home can work too.
10. Accept that they are not equipped to understand now
Children tend to live so completely in the moment that they often do not care about logic and reason even when they are within their grasp.
The worst of your children’s sibling rivalry problems will fade away by the time they are 12. You’ll simply need to keep trying to reason with them until then.