“Taming Sibling Rivalry” continued...
Children need to develop empathy as much as they need to develop individuality. They need to learn to consider and care about the needs of other family members. While children should be taught that it is kind to share their things they should not be forced to share. When children are forced to share their toys, games, etc. they often hurt back at their parents by become aggressive toward the sibling they were made to share with. The same lesson applies to children’s friendships as well. A mother of eleven-
Another pitfall that causes parents to fan the flames of sibling rivalry is labeling. As children grow they develop their own talents. As parents, when we label one child an athlete, one a scholar, and another a musician, animosity between siblings may also develop. When we show delight in one child’s talent we need to be sensitive to the feelings of our other children. Our reactions to the one can diminish the feeling of self-
Let us take a look at how we should intervene when there is a sibling squabble. First we want to be a judge and then we want to be a mediator. As the judge our job is to determine whether any family rules were broken and to enforce the rules by providing consequences when rules are broken. If we neglect enforcing the three family rules mentioned earlier we can expect sibling conflicts to escalate. Those rules not only tame sibling rivalry but also teach children lifelong attitudes necessary for success in both the world of work and personal life.
Suppose one of our children has a complaint against another and comes to us for help. As we listen to the complaint suppose we learn that both sides called the other a name. As the judge we recognize that they both broke the family rule about not hurting others with words or actions. Breaking this rule was probably not the root issue of their squabble. They both used name-
Our role as a mediator is quite different from our role as a judge. This approach is very effective if we explain to our children the difference between our roles as judge and mediator. As the mediator, not only do we help resolve our children’s conflicts, we also train them how to resolve future conflicts. Suppose one of our children comes to us again and complains about a sibling. What we need to do is get the other sibling and say, “Your brother has a problem with you and he wants to fix it. Do you want me to be a judge or mediator? As the judge I am going to be looking for who is right and who is wrong. If you are wrong there will be consequences. I will also be looking to see if any family rules have been broken and I will enforce those rules with consequences. That is what I will do if you want me to be the judge. If you want me to be the mediator there will be no consequences. As the mediator I will not take sides and my goal will be to help you find a solution that you both like. You will get to tell your brother your feelings and point of view, and you will hear his. I will help both of you work things out instead of fighting. If you want me to be a mediator you must agree to solve the problem. Which do you want me to be?”
The reason there are no consequences in mediation is because it is voluntary. We want our children to see it as being non-