When I was young, I lived in a house with a family of 6; I had 3 siblings and there was quite often a lot of conflict. When conflict arose, my mother would yell “stop fighting, everyone go to their rooms immediately.” This was how I first learned how conflict was solved, through yelling and sending children away. This was how I was conditioned to handle conflict.
When I had my own children, I had to try to navigate this myself and figure out how to help my kids and not feel so stressed and overwhelmed with the “rivalry” that commonly exists in all families. This is not an easy task when you have only experienced and learned to yell.
Rivalry is an opportunity for our kids to gain attention, strive for power, exert their will, or just purposely try to annoy another member in the family for no particular reason. When we look at sibling rivalry, it is truly important that we look from a place of reality, why it exists and what is behind it.
Sibling rivalry exists as an opportunity for us to create a learning opportunity; It is not a negative experience. When we have a strong family foundation, build upon mutual respect, communication and connection, we can navigate these situations in better ways.
One of my favorite words is curiosity. If you follow my blogs, you have probably noticed this theme throughout. Curiosity is a beautiful way to empower our children. When it comes to sibling rivalry, this is another opportunity to teach and empower. Bringing attention to whatever the disagreement is with compassion and kindness can open the door to curiosity. Asking our children for their thoughts on how we can solve whatever the conflict is, sharing a toy, using the bathroom individually, or sitting in the front seat of the car, giving them the autonomy to think, question, and be curious about solutions to the disagreement.
Instead of feeling like we need to solve these situations for them, we can empower them to think about what might work best for them in solving the disagreement for themselves. Small children have big ideas. We will only learn about them if we ask.
Here are a couple ways to address these situations:
- Compassionately highlight what you see to the issue; For example, I see that you want to play with this toy but your brother has it.
- Ask a question about how this particular toy might be able to be used by both children in a way that feels right for them. Give each a turn to speak.
- Ask your kids how they can best resolve this situation at hand. Allow them to come to a compromise on their own.