Having children that turn on each other can be the bane of every parent’s life.
However, experts have now revealed how sibling rivalry can be a good thing, if handled right.
Maggie Bolger, ACchild development expert and mother of four from London, told FEMAIL that sibling rivalry can “boost emotional intelligence” and “foster strong social skills.”
However, he cautioned that if it continues for too long, it can turn into something negative with lasting consequences.
She revealed her nine tips on how to handle sibling rivalry…
Maggie Bolger, a child development expert and mother of four from London, told FEMAIL that sibling rivalry can “boost emotional intelligence” and “foster strong social skills” (file image)
1. Count to ten: leave them alone to see if they manage on their own
Maggie explained: “Too often our parental instinct is to intervene as soon as voices are raised in an effort to force a quick resolution and avoid conflict.
“It’s actually much better to let the kids figure it out for themselves and try to reserve adult guidance only if things start to get physical.”
She said conflict resolution is “a vital life skill” that “everyone should have honed by adulthood.”
Maggie continued: ‘Learning the art of negotiation, debating and problem solving, for most of us, is first learned with siblings.
“Constant adult intervention leaves the child with the feeling that they will always be ‘rescued’ and therefore has no room to learn conflict resolution skills.”
2. Let them stew
The parent’s reaction when a conflict arises is to force an apology from one or both children in the immediate moment.
However, Maggie said that this isn’t always the best way to handle the discussion.
She explained: “When this is done in the heat of the moment, tempers are high and the children haven’t had the time or space to consider what has happened and therefore really ‘feel’ the words ‘I’m sorry’.” .
“Instead of insisting on immediately saying sorry, suggest a time-out so both kids can think about things – the key to time-outs is that there are no devices, so they really have to think about things.
‘Then let them come to you when they have worked out a resolution. This is important so that negative sibling rivalry and resentment does not develop.’
3. Dinner therapy
The parenting expert described dinner time as “a crucial part of the day.”
She explained: ‘It provides a quiet space in which to discuss issues that have arisen during the day, with the whole family.
‘Talking about why problems arose and how they were resolved reinforces the idea that sometimes there will be conflict, but we can put it behind us.
‘This kind of roundtable is really healthy and encourages open and honest communication with children from an early age.
“This is another life skill that nurtures language development to build mutual trust.”
4. Mind your own business
Maggie explained: ‘There is research showing that when parents are around a lot, children compete for their attention.
“They often view even negative attention as better than not paying attention. But when children are left to play alone, they tend to be more cooperative.
Maggie Bolger also warned that if it continues for too long, it can turn into something negative with lasting consequences.
‘So, have your space, give them theirs and you will indeed find that things will be more harmonious than you thought. ‘
5. Being Swiss
Sometimes kids just can’t figure things out without the quiet intervention of an adult.
But Maggie suggested that the key when entering a conflict between young children is to ‘remain neutral’.
She continued: ‘Being neutral and not taking sides (well, not in front of them) gives each child a chance to express why they think they were right.
‘Acknowledge these feelings, even as adults, people can have a hard time seeing how their behavior contributed to a negative situation.
“Listen carefully and calmly explain how each child has played a role in the disagreement, rationalizing the behavior rather than directly vilifying it.”
6. No comparison shopping
Maggie explained: ‘We all do it, most of the time unconsciously. But when it comes to children, comparisons can be detrimental.
“Labeling” children can make one feel jealous or threatened by the other and inadvertently leads to conflict.
“If a child feels underprivileged, it can sow the seeds of deeper, more negative sibling rivalry.”
7. Say two nice things to each of them.
For her part, the parenting expert said that, like adults, children can often reach a point of frustration where they feel that insults is the best reaction.
She said: “While this is (unfortunately) very common, as a parent we need to reverse this behavior and to do so I recommend the 1:2 ratio.”
“Therefore, for each insult, I suggest that the child say two kind things to strengthen the other.
“In addition to demonstrating the impact words can have, it’s a powerful way to speed the path to a calmer state of mind.”
8. Zero tolerance
Maggie said that she “absolutely advocated allowing children to argue without adult intervention.”
However, he revealed that there have to be some behaviors for which there is ‘zero tolerance’.
She said: “Clearly these include any physical violence and insults.”
The expert continued: ‘Make these ‘house rules’ that each child takes for granted.
“If any of those rules are broken, the child realizes there will be repercussions.”
9. Get ahead of heartbreak
The parenting expert said: ‘As parents, we know what triggers each of our children, such as hunger, tiredness or exhaustion.
‘One of the best tips I can share is, whenever possible, to anticipate any potential aggression.
‘When one (or all) of the children are too tired or overwhelmed, involve them in an individual activity such as reading, colouring, putting together a puzzle.
“This intervention may be enough to keep them calm and prevent problems from arising.”