Whenever you have more than one child in the house (whether the babies are your own or whether you live in an extended family), there’s a chance for sibling rivalry to erupt. That’s because in their minds all babies are competing for the same thing – undivided love and attention.
Sibling rivalry can be at its worst when both children are less than 4 years old. Children under the age of 4 are very dependent on their parents and have a tough time sharing them with siblings. I mean, have you ever asked a 3-year-old to share his lollipop? Now imagine if he had to share his pop (and mom!)
Here are a few methods of dealing with sibling rivalry (PS. many of them have been recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics):
- Big Brother (or Sister) is watching you:
Convince your older child to help you care for the younger one. Encourage your elder child to be proud to be a big brother or big sister. Tell him the newest little member of your household is like his own baby – someone who will always depend on and look up to him.
2. Your children are beyond compare:
Don’t compare your children in front of them. The elder one might misinterpret comparison as criticism and this will only feed his insecurity at not being the youngest cub in the family anymore.
3. Violence is unacceptable (for kids and adults):
Let your children know that violence is a strict no-no. And set a good example since kids learn more from watching what you do rather than hearing what you say. So treat them and your hubby with kindness and love. When there are arguments at home (and which home doesn’t have its share of disagreements), avoid name-calling and angry actions like table-thumping and door-slamming. Solve arguments peacefully so that your kids do the same.
4. Don’t punish one child in front of the other:
When a dressing down is absolutely unavoidable, scold your little troublemaker in a quiet, private place. Scolding him in front of your other child (possibly the younger one) will only make him resentful.
5. Everyone needs their space:
If both your babies are toddlers, set aside areas for each of them. Give your kids — especially the older one — their own space. And make sure their toys don’t get mixed up. Also buy every toy in twos. Because the younger one always wants what the older one gets ?
6. Praise works! Always!
Find as many opportunities as you can to praise your children for sharing or playing well together. Don’t wait until they fight to turn your attention towards them.
7. Play it safe!
Never leave a toddler alone with an infant brother or sister. Even the most loving sibling can injure his infant sibling with an unintentionally tight hug or by rocking the cradle too hard.
There’s no way to totally eliminate sibling rivalry which is good news in a way because it has positive benefits as well. Sibling rivalry helps kids learn how to settle conflicts and practice social skills (like sharing a plate of cookies and taking turns on the tablet) at an early age. It also makes them stronger and less likely to get bullied once they are older.