Family Ceasefire: 4 Effective Steps to Manage Sibling Rivalry and Bullying
When sibling rivalry and bullying get out of hand, it can be a source of stress and unhappiness for each member of the family. Nevertheless, parents can play an indispensable role in helping their children manage conflicts between themselves and ultimately between their peers. While you may not prevent sibling rivalry, you can keep it under control. Here are some steps to take:
1. Determine The Cause of Rivalry
Sibling rivalry is common in many families. Sometimes, the rivalry is trivial and may fade away with time. But, when your children are nasty to each other, constantly bickering and become violent, it might be time to think seriously about why your children are behaving this way. Peter Ernest Haiman, Ph.D., former chairperson at the University of South Carolina Department of Early Childhood Development and Education suggests that the first step to putting an end to overt sibling rivalry is to understand the underlying dynamism in this sort of behaviour. Have you been playing favourites? Does your younger child feel victimized by the older one thereby intentionally provoking his older sibling? Does your child feel threatened by the inclusion of a new baby into the family? If your child is old enough to talk, ask him how he feels, why he hits his sister, or why she won’t co-operate with her brother? From here, you might start to find ways to help your children heal the rift.
2. Be Fair, Not Equal
Admittedly, fairness is not the same as equality when you have more than one child. Different children have different needs at any given time and it is important to consider these needs when you handle each child, so that no one feels as though their needs are being ignored. For example, it is fair that each of the grown children in the house be assigned tasks and responsibilities. But 17-year-old Charlie may have to take on greater responsibilities than 11 year old Billy. Their ages are unequal and, on a normal day, their physical capacity to undertake certain tasks in the house is different. Asking Billy to take up tasks and responsibilities that are better suited for Charlie just for the sake for equality can be a major cause of resentment on Billy’s side, something that could lead to sibling conflict.
3. Set them Up for Cooperation, Not Competition
Extensive studies by Dr. Susan McHale, a professor of human development and director at the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State University show that siblings are less likely to bully or rival each other when they each feel like winners. Families that keep sibling rivalry under control usually encourage co-operative rather than competitive situations. Instead of urging your 5 year old and 6 year old to draw a deer and see who draws best, encourage them to solve a puzzle together. Avoid comparing one child’s performance to the other’s with statements such as, “Jack, you are not doing too well in Math. Why can’t you work as hard as your brother Bobby?” Instead, encourage Bobby to tutor his brother Jack so he can perform better.
4. Foster A Sense of Togetherness
Sibling rivalry and bullying can be an indication of a lack of empathy on the part of the siblings involved in conflict. One way to nurture empathy among your children is to do things together regularly. This sense of togetherness and family bonding can make each child feel like an integral part of the family. A child is also likely to treat his siblings with love, respect and care when they often get together to have fun. Isolation and feelings of detachment can cause children to feel unsympathetic about being nasty to their siblings. No matter how busy you are, schedule time to have plenty of family fun together.