Is sibling rivalry getting you down?

Here are five easy ways to keep your sanity.

I’m not sure what’s worse, being asked for a snack every few minutes, toddler tantrums, or siblings that just won’t give it a rest! Our family has incredibly good great days, and then there are some like today when I wish I could stick my head in the sand and pretend I’m on an island holiday.

The struggle is real! Sibling rivalry is exhausting friends. It sucks the life right out of you. How many times can you say, “please stop arguing” or “please can you just listen to each other and get along?”. Not enough I guess.

Apparently it stems from the need to have your attention 24/7, a total dislike for one another, or even just plain boredom. I think it’s a combination of all of these, and in a family as large as mine, it’s inevitable. I really try to give each child some individual attention during the day, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes life gets in the way. Does that make me a bad mom? I sincerely hope not.

There are times when it gets so bad that I actually have no idea how to deal with it. I realise that they each have their own personalities and ways of doing things, and preferences for how things should play out. I’m just not always sure of how to act in a moment of my own frustration when faced with the fighting. And I’m sure I often make it worse than what it actually would be.

Since making the decision to work from home and homeschool my children, I’m trying incredibly hard to be more present in every situation, even the difficult ones.

How am I dealing with sibling rivalry?

1. Letting them solve it themselves.

OK, hear me out, if they’re trying to kill each other, obviously I’ll step in. However, I’m finding that sometimes letting them argue it out actually has a positive spin-off. They manage to get all those frustrations out by yelling at each other. Let’s be honest here, we also get mad, and yes we do yell at times. So why are we trying to stop our children from releasing their frustration? I do think it’s important to turn the yelling into a teaching lesson by explaining that we can still have robust conversations without shouting, and that it’s OK to disagree with someone.

2. Reminding them that saying sorry is respectful.

There are times when my husband and I have a difference of opinion (as most couples do), and although I would love to stand my ground and assert my stubborness, the reality is that sometimes I too need to apologise for something I’ve said or done. Just like I believe my children need to learn to apologise to each other if they have stepped out of line.

3. Separating the little critters.

I say critters in the most loving way possible, but this is where I need to check my own frustration levels and theirs. There are times when no amount of intervening will help and a simple time-out in their rooms can calm a stormy situation. Time out for me happens in many different forms. It can be lying on their beds, reading a book or enjoying the scenery of the cream coloured wall in our home (yes, my kids still sit in a corner sometimes). As grown ups, we also need to step away from an aggravating situation – why should it be any different for our children?

4. Disciplining equally

I firmly believe that what works for one child might not necessarily work for another. This is tricky but, in my opinion, very important. We all have very different personalities in our homes, but disciplining according to the individual without making the other child feel inferior is a hard task, even more so when the children are so close in terms of age. I haven’t mastered this one yet, and I don’t have all the answers. What I try to do is ensure that both perpetrators are very clear on the fact that I have had enough, and that there are consequences for their behaviour.

5. Family meetings

Every now and then when the peace in our home has exploded like a faulty hand-grenade, we have a family meeting. We don’t start the meeting on a negative tone with long lectures of how bad they’ve been. We start by allowing each of them to tell us how they feel, and encouraging them to express their emotions in a calm manner and without interruption. Once all the emotions have been expressed, we jump in and explain to them what the negative behaviour was, and remind them of the behaviour that is expected in our home. This “formal” meeting is always concluded with love and cuddles.

Dealing with sibling rivalry is still somewhat of a mystery to me, and I haven’t yet fully mastered the art of dealing with it effectively. However, I try very hard to not lose my temper, and I often walk away feeling more like a winning parent than a failure.

How do you deal with sibling rivalry in your home? I would love to gain more insight.

Parenty logo 2Jacqui Bester is firstly a wife, and mom to five rambunctious children who drive her nuts and fill her heart with unspeakable joy all in the space of a single day. She writes about her day to day adventures and misadventures in parenting, life and marriage. Jacqui is known for sharing a brutally honest account of her MESSY “mamahood”… the joy, the fun, the laughter and the tears. She enjoys a good mystery-crime novel with a lovely glass of red wine, trying out new foods and restaurants with her hubby on the odd date-night, exploring new places, learning new skills, and generally anything else that calls for a more adventurous approach to life. You can find her over on One Messy Mama.


If you found this article useful or interesting, why not subscribe to Parenty’s weekly newsletter for a wrap up of that week’s best content.




today in print