Any parent with more than one kid can relate to this topic. Some days our kids act like best friends and others they try to kill each other. What can we do to ensure less of the latter? Read on!
There’s a natural tendency to want to compete with your sibs. They compete for parental attention and affection, and they compete to just be better at doing things. There’s also a tendency to compare. He got more than me! She does that better than I do!
Every child wants to be seen, heard, and understood. Take time to acknowledge and validate their feelings, and then teach them how to express those feelings in an appropriate way.
“Who do you love more?” is a question that parents often get asked by their children. Rather than quickly exclaiming, “I love you both the same!”, try explaining what it is you love about each of them as individuals. For example, “You are the only YOU in the entire world! No one else has your smile, your laugh, your eyes, your heart. I am proud of you for always being kind to others and for always trying new things. I love that you are the only person exactly like YOU!”
Treat each of your children like individuals rather than equals. What works for one may not work for all. By showing them that you are meeting their individual needs, they will feel heard and respected and loved, rather than comparing themselves to their siblings.
Another way to make each of them feel extra special is to spend one-on-one time with each of them. This can be done daily, weekly, or monthly (or as much as time allows). Take them out on special dates without their siblings. Really get to know them. Ask them about their likes and dislikes. Do whatever they like to do.
Try giving them a quiz to find out their love language. You probably have an idea of what their love language already is, but giving them the love language test is fun for them and makes them feel special and important. You can find one for free here. Make an effort to write them letters if “words of affirmation” is their love language. Give them extra hugs throughout the day if their love language is “physical touch”. You will be amazed at how much this affects kids (and grown ups too)!
Try no to lock your children into specific roles. If one is responsible and one is prone to mischief, don’t declare these positions out loud. Children who think they are to fulfill a certain role end up resenting their siblings. Encourage your children to “break free” from their roles. If one is consistently a rule-follower, allow them to stay up past their bedtime once in a while. Play hooky from school and take them fishing. Show them you love them for themselves, not because of the role they play most of the time.
When siblings fight, as they inevitably will, try to ignore it and let them resolve it on their own. Step in if the situation becomes dangerous and remind them of the family rule to not hurt anyone. Acknowledge their anger, listen to both sides of the story, and describe what they’ve said by repeating it back to them. This will allow them to feel heard and understood. Then step back and tell them you are confident they can come up with a solution on their own. Maybe say something like, “I’m excited to see how you come up with a way to solve this conflict!”
Kids are going to fight, no matter what. Connected parenting and making sure they feel heard will help them to stop comparing themselves to each other.