Sibling rivalry may be as old as the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Fortunately, most conflicts between siblings don’t lead to the same tragic result, but they can be distressing to parents and children alike. To keep the peace in your household, follow this advice:
• Start early. Involve the older child before the younger brother or sister comes along. Talk about how life develops in a mother’s body, discuss what changes the family should expect, and reassure the child of his or her parents’ love.
• Pay attention. Many struggles between siblings arise because one of the children feels neglected and wants his or her share of attention. Do your best to devote some special time to each child so he or she doesn’t feel less important or unloved. Avoid any behavior that might appear to favor one child over the other.
• Don’t compare children. Holding up one child as an example to the other can spark resentment and jealousy. Don’t expect them to become mirror images of each other. Appreciate each child on his or her own merits, and respect your kids’ individuality.
• Teach children to settle their own conflicts. If you impose a solution, or drop everything to mediate a conflict, chances are good that no one will be happy. Talk to children about how they can solve the problem on their own—by asking politely, taking turns, seeing things from the sibling’s point of view, and so forth. If you must get involved, try not to take sides; help the children negotiate their own solution.
• Hold family meetings. Bring everyone together once a week to discuss issues and explore solutions. Most of the time children just want to be heard. Give them a chance to speak and respond, and work together to resolve differences and disagreements.