Children and Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is very common and possibly inevitable, in Mormon families as well as others, but you can decrease the conflict that your children have with each other.  Prepare your children for the arrival of more siblings and teach them how to interact with each other without fighting.

Mormon BoysPreparing your children for other children involves being open with them.  If they have questions about their new brother or sister, answer them.  Get your child used to the idea of the baby as a person, even before birth.  Let them feel the kicks and wiggles of the fetus when the fetus gets old enough to kick and wiggle.

Read your child books about siblings playing together.  Give them some time with babies,  so that they can see what babies look like and how they interact.  Let your child help you prepare for the baby—like decorating the room the baby will sleep in, or going shopping with you for baby supplies—but keep the changes to your child’s environment as slight as possible.

What about after the baby’s born?  Some of the same principles still apply.  Don’t change the child’s environment or schedule more than you have to, while realizing that the baby is going to cry and the baby is going to be disruptive.  You can have the child help you with the baby, then.  The child can feel involved and important, and thus responsible for the baby instead of jealous of the baby.  Be aware that the child might want more time with you as the baby takes up more of your time, so be prepared to spend special time with the older child when the baby is asleep.

Sibling rivalry does have many sources, and when the children are older, spats are likely to arise.  The source isn’t always jealousy—often, it arises from other things, such as plain and simple personality clashes or even boredom.  No matter how carefully you raise your children to get used to each other, the call of “Moooom!  Daaad!  She hit me!” is probably going to show up eventually.

So how do we deal with this?  Sibling rivalry can be very frustrating to parents.  And Mormons believe in avoiding the “spirit of contention” as much as possible (it drives away good feelings and the Spirit).  Why can’t the kids just get along?

Kids are likely to complain about fairness.  (Why does Mary Sue get this and I don’t?)  Remember that Joey Bob probably doesn’t actually want Mary Sue’s doll—he might just think Mary Sue is getting more attention than he is.  It’s more important and useful to figure out what Joey Bob really wants rather than try to “fix” his complaint.  It’s not going to be possible to treat all your children equally (spending the exact same amount of money on their school activities, doing the exact same things with every child) and probably not even desirable.  Try to keep taps on what the children actually need, rather than what other children are getting.

What about sharing?  Young children, especially, don’t much like sharing.  Don’t force them to share things that they really prize (even adults have problems with this—do you share your soccer trophy from your senior year in high school?), but encourage children to share toys and games meant for the whole family.  Don’t buy toys or games for one child that everyone is going to want, at least not while everyone’s still young.

And what about when they out and out fight?  See if you can’t let them work it out themselves, helping them find diplomatic ways to resolve their problems.  Separate them if they just won’t leave each other alone, or distract them with another activity they both like.

Be careful about criticizing one child in these kinds of instances, or comparing them to each other in an unfavorable way.  Children can absorb and remember this sort of thing, which fuels resentment as well as conflict.  Likewise, be careful about letting younger siblings get into constant situations with older siblings where they “can’t win.”

And set a good example!  Try not to compete (except for friendly competition) with your spouse or your family.  Be gentle with those you might come in conflict with and children will pick it up.  Mormons encourage having good relationships with extended family.

Read more information at our source: Sibling Rivalry: Help for Parents

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