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When Your Kids Don't Get Along
Sibling Rivalry Happens in the Best Families

If there is more than one child in your house there is a slight chance that there will be an occasional moment that they do not like each other very much.

Actually, there is much more than a slight chance. The chances are more than likely. The reasons will run the gambit from overtired crankiness to a real animosity between siblings. The textbooks call this sibling rivalry. Although it may make you crazy, it is very normal.

Do family's exist where the children get along all the time, where sibling rivalry never crops up? It is pretty safe to say no. Adults, who have been through many relationships and life experiences (and, hopefully, learned from them), often have trouble getting along with each other...all the time. Why should we expect kids to have the skills we are still trying to master?

As adults it is up to us to set a good example and to help the children we to love get along...at least most of the time. It's never too early to start learning how to negotiate and work out differences without resorting to screaming fits or fists.

Sibling rivalry in action

Sibling rivalry may be the result of different genders. It is difficult for girls and boys to play the same games together or talk about the same things. Girls may spend hours playing with Barbie. For most boys, the best role to play in Barbie-land is the earthquake that takes out the pool with all the girls in it. This only works until the grown-up of the house stops the fun. Johnny is called inside, told to leave the girls alone and the grown-up goes back to doing whatever he or she was doing before being so rudely interrupted.

This tactic, although logical, will only cause more of a problem. Little Johnny, in his boyish way, was playing. True, the girls may have seen it as being a nuisance, but a group of boys would have all joined in.

Appropriate behavior

Instead of labeling the behavior as bad, explain that his behavior was not appropriate. "Johnny, overturning the pool upset the girls. I know you were just playing but it isn't playing unless everyone is having fun." Let him know that he wasn't doing anything basically wrong, but in that situation it just didn't fit. He can accept that it was a bad idea -- in that context. He can learn to pay attention to how his behavior is affecting others. This lesson comes in handy at home, at school and, years later, at work and in his own home.

Realize that problem is not Johnny. He just needs someone with common interests to play with. Try redirecting his energy to more group oriented activity or to something he can do by himself.

Perhaps instead of playing Barbie, the group could play a game or make snacks together. If the girls can't be pried away from dolls, suggest reading a book, playing a computer game, or a bike ride. These might work to keep the peace, but they don't address the issue of the girls shutting Johnny out of the group activity.

Validation is vital

Next, recognize and validate his feelings, "I bet it isn't much fun watching a bunch of girls play with their Barbies." Take the sting out of the lesson. Let him know that his reaction is understandable. He was doing his best to take part in the group activity. It's not his fault that the game was not appropriate.

Try to explain what was wrong with the way he chose to participate and let him think of alternatives that might work better. Can he play the driver of Barbie's car? Are there craft materials to make a bench or table for Barbie? Learning to adapt to group situations is an important life lesson.

Finally, take some time out of your day for play and show him that he is fun to play with, "I have some time right now and I would love to play a game or do something fun with you. What do you want to do?" When little Johnny isn't so bored trying to find something to do, he will get along much better with his sisters.

Just be prepared for the complaints that you're playing with him and not the girls!

There are no simple solutions because your children are complex people. Just remember that your kids do love each other and one day, when they are grown, they will probably be best friends...who will still get on each other's nerves every once in a while.


About the Author...
Katrina Cramer-Diaz is a working mom with a background in education and plenty of experience in parenting. She lives in Virginia with her four children.


More about sibling rivalry around the Web:

About Sibling Rivalry - Kids Health.org

Your Child & Sibling Rivalry

Living With Your Teenager - Dealing With Sibling Rivalry - WebMD

 

also see in Health -> Child Development


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