Adolescent siblings spend a lot of time together. Between sharing rooms, going to school, and spending so much time together, it’s no surprise that tension is bound to build. Sibling rivalry can be incredibly intense during adolescence when the younger sibling may feel like their older sibling is taking away their spotlight or not appreciating them for who they are. Instead of ignoring the tension and hoping for the best, take these steps to help prevent rivalry from tearing your family unit apart.
1. Model healthy behavior yourself
If you have a set of adolescent siblings, chances are that your kids will fight with one another at some point in their lives. Healthy behavior is a huge part of what your kids pick up on, so try to avoid being the kind of parent who yells and picks fights with their kids. If you are the kind of parent who gets frustrated and yells at their kids, it will create problems in their relationship. Your kids will pick up on this and learn that it is okay to yell at their siblings. They will think that yelling is an okay thing to do when frustrated. Instead, try to respond calmly and rationally when your kids are frustrated, even if you are too!
2. Normalize their differences
It’s essential to accept your kids for who they are and not compare them to an idealized version of being a “good” or “perfect” child. Each child is unique and has their own set of individual traits and strengths. It’s important not to do a one-size-fits-all approach that tries to make your kids into one consistent version of “normal.” Your kids may be picky eaters. They may not like vegetables, or they may dislike eggs. There is nothing wrong with picky eaters. Your kids may be poor spellers. They may not like to read or they may never pick up a book. There is nothing wrong with poor spellers. Your kids may be awkward with their words and thoughts. There is nothing wrong with awkward children.
3. Chastise fairly and consistently
Consistency is key. If you chastise your children inconsistently, they will pick up on this and manipulate it to their favor. This will create competition between the children as they constantly jockey for your favor. If you are inconsistent, your child will not know what to expect and be confused and possibly resentful. Each child is different, and so too, is the way they will respond to discipline. If you are harsh or punitive with your child, even if they deserve it, they are more likely to resent you and hold those feelings against you later on in life. Chastising your child, even when they are a poor-tempered, misbehaving mess, should be done with care and finesse. Be careful not to over-chastise or be punitive for incidents that aren’t worth it. If you are consistent in your discipline method, your child will notice the change and respond accordingly.
4. Build on common interests
Create environments where your siblings can bond. Building up positive relationships should focus on exploring and identifying shared interests. If one sibling is into sports while the other loves reading, they could share an interest in music. By identifying shared interests, you are breaking down barriers between siblings that cause them to perceive each other as rivals.
Part of preventing sibling rivalry includes recognizing what is unique about your child. Your child is different, and that is something to be celebrated. By celebrating your child’s differences, you are promoting inclusion.