Siblings are the first friends kids make and the closest family they’ll have when they’re older. Needless to say, for those with siblings, there is a unique and special bond they share and every parent hopes this bond only strengthens over time. Although when the kids are little it can seem like siblings share a love-hate bond. They can’t do with or without each other.
Ask any grown-up siblings who share a close relationship about their childhood and they’ll probably tell you they fought a lot as children. It’s not uncommon for little kids to say they “hate” their sibling, “never want to play” with them again or to be in each other’s hair and annoy each other every chance they get. Sibling rivalry seems inevitable and if not addressed correctly, it can be disruptive to family bonding and leave parents exhausted. As natural as these occurrences are, there are still a few things that we as parents can do to help siblings bond better and lay the foundation for a deep meaningful relationship that will grow into a support system as they grow older.
A mom worrying about sibling rivalry
When my second child was born, I was in awe of how beautifully my first born handled the “new baby” situation. Being just a toddler himself, he would click his tongue to soothe the baby, rock the baby’s bouncer when he cried and be my helper at the diaper station. That honeymoon lasted only for so long. Within almost a year, I couldn’t leave them in the same room for even a minute without supervision unless I was prepared to hear loud wailing or see someone hurt. Being new to the two child situation, I wondered why my older child had changed overnight and what had gotten into him all of a sudden. I was so caught up in focusing on his behaviour, I had barely noticed my own.
Like I do when I’m caught up in any parenting dilemma that arises, I turned to a few books to help me understand siblings and how to handle rivalry that develops. I will forever be grateful for picking up Dr. Laura Markham’s book “ Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings”. It changed my perception on sibling behaviour, gave me plenty of tips on sibling bonding and most of all took away the anxiety I was feeling about my boys.
The truth about sibling rivalry and fights is that it is a part of growing up as siblings. You can expect it to happen. And while you can’t take the entire responsibility for your child’s behaviour or the credit for their personality, we must realize that our interaction, reactions and approach to these situations can escalate their behaviour or turn them around into something more positive and natural.
Some tips on managing Sibling Rivalry based on the book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings
As common as sibling rivalry is, it is important for parents to handle the situation with empathy, patience and love. It may not always be easy but it will always be helpful. My children are now aged 3 and 5. With an ongoing pandemic, they’ve spent the past 18 months around each other almost 24/7. Do they play with each other? Yes. Do they fight? Yes. Do I stress about it? Not as much. Do they love each other? No doubt about it. I’m quite confident they’re building a lasting and meaningful relationship for life. And whenever I see little spurts of jealousy or lots of bickering in the air, I know I just need to give them more love, more cuddles and more giggles and things only get better from there. It doesn't always come naturally, but I’m surely learning a little everyday.