No one snuggles up to their beloved and says, “Sweetie, let’s have a family with a bunch of kids that can’t get along with each other. While we are at it, let’s make sure that they fight like cats and dogs and we feel less like parents and spend every waking moment with our children as referees.” As parents, we want the best for our children and part of that is teaching them how to get along with each other.
The best compliment any parent can receive is, “You never showed a favorite, we just knew that when we needed you, that you would be there.” Since the root of sibling rivalry is largely based in the need for a parent’s attention and approval, children need to feel as though they are valued for themselves, not their abilities or the ways that they are better or worse off than others.
1. Make family memories that treasure each child
Our children are unique individuals. Sometimes, there is a child whose personality meshes better with our own than the other children in the home. This is a difficult situation for all. It is important to look for opportunities to connect with each of your children, and as a parent and a person, you will be able to expand your own views and interests. Build memories as a family as well as memories with each child in order to show each of your children that you love and appreciate them. Make sure that each of your children feels support from the family members in their interests, talents and hobbies
2. Communicate with you children in a way that does not compare them to others
Most parents would never say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother/sister?” Comparing children goes beyond this obvious statement. Speak to your child as an individual. Avoid the “I love you, but ...” messages in your communication with your child. Whether they understand the grammatical meaning of the word, the message is loud and clear. “I love you except when you do ...” This type of message will show your children that your love may be conditional and cause them to feel less secure in their interaction with you.
3. Keep a balance when “choosing”
This is a big issue for many families. When needing to make a choice of activities, special desserts, where to go for dinner, what game or movie to watch, etc., make sure that one child (usually the most vocal one) does not run over their siblings. Keep track of who chose last, and rotate the “choosing". (Make sure to include Mom and Dad, as well, since it is important to teach our children that all family members are appreciated as individuals with preferences.) For situations that are fairly random, a good way to “choose” is to put names in a hat or use another random method. Children will realize the choice is random and that they are not being slighted.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.