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How to deal with Sibling Rivalry




Ensure each child feels loved uniquely, not for what they do, but for themselves
The reality is that the more time you spend with your child, the less they will demand it through negative behaviour towards a sibling or towards you. The negative behaviour is a cry for help.

The Why of the Behaviour
To understand Sibling Rivalry, imagine your husband coming home and telling you that he loves you so much, he’s decided to get another wife – just like you! But here is the good news: you are actually going to Love Her! How would you feel? That is how your child feels. You are the most important person in the world to them and the possible withdrawal of your love is threatening for them.

Show your child you love them through spending time with them 1:1
It is not enough to tell them that you love them, you need to show it through your actions so one to one undistracted, undiluted time with you is their greatest need

Reducing Sibling Rivalry
An awareness that you can never treat your child equally, however you can treat them uniquely so connecting in with each of them and giving them a sense of being loved makes them feel secure and their sibling is no longer a threat. When baby is asleep, giving the elder child some 1:1 time achieves that, setting a time aside to spend with them makes them feel secure.

Eight minutes a day is all a child needs of 1:1 time to feel secure, can you afford not to give it?
You will find that the more attention you give, the less the demand, but give the attention to them first, when you come in the door and their need for you will be met and they will go off happy or tell them in advance “In ten minutes, I need to make dinner  but I want to play with you first, because I really missed you!”
This is a real issue for the child, so look at how evenly you divide your time between your children. Even if you are fair, your child may not think so and this feeling runs painfully and deeply for them resulting in negative behaviour. Reward good behaviour, so if you see them playing together, sit down and join them for a few minutes and say how you enjoy being with them when they are playing happily.

There is less of a need for Discipline – more need to show them they are loved
A: Acknowledge the feeling (“You’re mad with your sister, I see that”)
B: Boundary (“But we do not xxx in this family”)
C: Choice (“You have a choice, if you choose to xx, you’re choosing to miss TV, you decide”), when you feel upset with your sister, come and tell me, and I will always take time for a cuddle with you, you need to say it in words, not actions.
C: Consequence (Apply if necessary)
C: Be Consistent! Parents rarely are and children take advantage of that!

Negative attention arises from a feeling of not being loved enough, so ensure your child feels loved and gets hugged throughout the day and once their needs are met, they have no need to engage with you through negative behaviour to get negative attention.

This article was written by Sheila O Malley. Sheila owns Practical Parenting and offers courses, 1 to 1 support and School Talks as well as Company talks on Parenting and wellbeing. See www.practicalparenting.ie for details. Book a One Day Saturday course from 10-4pm with a friend or partner and get the tips to need to support you in the hardest job you ever do!  Check out Sheila's scheduled autumn Parenting courses here