Image from the 'Just Like When Cards' by Quirky Kid
Fighting between siblings, or sibling rivalry, is a common concern among parents. A certain amount of arguing between children in families is normal, and is one of the ways that children learn the importance of sorting out problems independently, respecting people’s feelings and belongings. Additionally, learning how to fight fairly without hurting each other, within the home environment, may assist children in their ability to sort out issues in future relationships.
A degree of sibling rivalry is normal as learning to live together can be difficult when dealing with the different ages, needs and personalities involved. As children reach different stages of development, their evolving needs can significantly impact on the way they interact and relate with each other.
What are the Common Causes of Sibling Rivalry?
Jealousy and competition are the main causes for sibling rivalry and fighting.
A child may feel that their sibling is receiving more love or attention from a parent, and in response may try to ‘take it out’ on their sibling. Rates of sibling rivalry are lower in families where children feel they are treated equally by their parents.
Other factors that may influence how often sibling rivalry occurs include:
- Gender and age – sibling rivalry is most likely to occur when the children are of the same gender and close together in age.
- Toddlers – tend to be possessive of their toys and are learning to assert their will. If a brother or sister attempts to pick up one of their toys, the toddler may react aggressively. This often contributes to sibling rivalry among toddlers.
- School-aged children – have a strong concept of fairness and equality and may not understand why a younger sibling is receiving additional attention.
- Teenagers – are developing a sense of individuality and independence and may resent having to spend time looking after younger siblings or helping with house work contributing to sibling rivalry.
- Individual personalities and temperaments – For instance, if one child tends to cling and be drawn to parents for their love and affection, this can be resented by siblings who don’t seek out or don’t receive the same treatment by their parents.
- Sibling with special needs – a child may pick up on the amount of time and energy their sibling receives, and act out on this disparity for attention due to lack of understanding of the situation.
- Examples parents set – the way in which parents resolve conflicts and problems has a significant impact on the way that children interact and resolve their own conflicts. For instance, when parents resolve their issues in a respectful and productive manner, the likelihood that the children of such parents will adopt these techniques is increased. As a parent it is important to manage sibling rivalry.
What can parents do to prevent sibling rivalry?
- Spend special time with each child on a regular basis to avoid sibling rivalry.
- Together, set ground rules for acceptable behaviour, such as no name calling, no yelling or hitting.
- Provide children with their own space and time to do their own thing. For example to play with toys by themselves or to own something special that they don’t have to share. This will help to reduce sibling rivalry.
- Try not to compare children with each other.
- Be generous with affection.
- Have fun together as a family. This will establish a peaceful way for children to spend time together. Playing board games, throwing a ball or watching a movie together are some good ways to do this.
If parents have to get involved….
- Separate kids until they are calm. This will stop the fight from escalating and will provide an opportunity for emotions to die down. Later the fight can be revisited as a learning experience.
- Parents should be aware of their own feelings, and to remain fair, even when feeling more frustration towards one child.
- Try not to take sides, anyone who is involved is partly responsible.
- Set up a “win-win” situation so that each child gains something. For example, if both children wanted to play with the same toy, suggest playing a game together.
- Reminding children of the ground rules will reduce sibling rivalry.
- Help them listen to each other’s feelings. If required, assist them to work out ways to solve the problem and reduce sibling rivalry.
When possible don’t get involved in the fight. As children learn to cope with disputes, they learn important skills, such as valuing another person’s perspective, how to compromise and negotiate and how to control aggressive impulses.
However, if it is evident that a child is feeling upset, help them find ways to express their feelings before a fight starts. Such as playing with playdough or water for younger children or going for a run or listening to music for older children.
Sometimes, the sibling rivalry becomes so severe that it disrupts daily functioning and can significantly affect children emotionally.
How can the Quirky Kid Clinic help?
There are many ways we can help you to manage sibling rivalry. If you believe your family would benefit from some assistance with sibling rivalry, please contact the Quirky Kid Clinic on (02) 9362 9297 to discuss the following options:
This post was developed by Corina Vogler, Provisional Psychologist, employed by the Quirky Kid Clinic.
Information for this fact sheet was taken from Kimberley O’Brien, Child Psychologist, kidshealth.org, and the Raising Children Network.
Most parents have experienced their toddler’s challenging behaviour at some point whether it’s the “terrible twos” or for that matter, threes, fours or more. Watching your child scream, kick or throw himself to the ground in exasperation is never easy, yet as a parent, what’s important, is being able to look beyond the red-faced anger and recognise what your child is actually trying to communicate.
Many young children throw tantrums when they are experiencing a range of emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, frustration and jealousy. Regardless of your child’s motivation, it is important for parents to help their children understand that tantrums and associated behaviours such as biting, pinching and hair pulling are not always acceptable and that there are better ways to express their feelings.
Ways to Manage Toddler Behavior:
- Use a gentle yet firm and fast response. When your child acts aggressively, unclamp your child’s hand or mouth, and say something like “no hurting”. Then, temporarily remove them from the situation, or away from the stimulus. It may take a few repetitions for children to understand that what they are doing is not allowed.
- Consider the triggers. Sometimes children act aggressively because they are bored or seeking attention. If parents are able to recognize this then they may be able to target why the behaviour is occurring, and deal with it accordingly.
- Use positive reinforcement. Always praise your child’s good behaviour and use resources like the Tickets – a Tool to tame Behaviour by Quirky Kid
- Use feeling words. By assigning words to your child’s feelings or emotive states, they will eventually learn to identify how they are feeling themselves, by using such words. Although this may take a long time especially if your child is very young, eventually your child will be able to use these words to both describe and take control of her own feelings without resorting to tantrums or violence.
- Be Consistent. It is important not to give in to whatever your child was wanting which triggered the tantrum.
- Use therapeutic tools like the Just Like When Cards , I Feel Angry or It’s Not Fair to improve emotional literacy and self expression.
What not to do:
- While some parents may think that in order to get their child to stop a behaviour they should show them how it feels by doing it to them, this is certainly is not the recommended approach to take. Parents should never bite, pinch or pull their child’s hair just to show them how much it hurts. Regardless of the parents’ intention, this is actually a form of child abuse and is punishable by law.
How to prevent tantrums from occurring
- Teach your child to use ‘feeling words’. Give him the tools to communicate what’s going on so that he doesn’t need to resort to tantrums or violence.
- Use resources like the Tickets – a Tool to tame Behaviour by Quirky Kid
- Try to avoid taking your child on outings when he is likely to get hungry or tired. Always have a snack handy.
- Distract her from potential tantrum triggers with a story or another activity she enjoys.
- Take note of events that trigger tantrums and try to understand what causes them in your child.
*Information for this article was gathered from Kimberley O’Brien – Child Psychologist, the Raising Children Network, Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service and NSW Department of Community Services
Separation Anxiety in children is characterized by a extreme level of anxiety when the child is separated from their home, family members and parents. Children displaying signs of Separation Anxiety often become homesick, do not want to attend school, avoid visiting friends houses or may not be able to enter a room on their own. In addition, children can have difficult around bedtime and may insist that someone stay with them until they are asleep. Another characteristic is psychical pains like, stomach aches, nauseas and vomiting, especially when separation occurs. Below you can find more information on what to look for before asking for help.
What should I look for?
- Does your child show excessive anxiety relating to their separation from home or people such as Mum or Dad? Is this level of anxiety unreasonable for a child of their age?
- Is your child repeatedly distressed when they are separated, or think they are going to be separated, from home or from Mum or Dad or another significant person?
- Is your child constantly worried about something happening to a family member, such as an accident or illness?
- Does your child worry that something will happen that will separate him/her from the home or family?
- Does your child refuse to go to school or participate in other activities away from the home or significant family members?
- Is your child excessively scared of being left alone or being without significant family members in other settings?
- Does your child refuse to go to sleep without being near a significant person, or does s/he refuse to sleep away from home?
- Does your child have repeated nightmares about separation?
- Does your child complain of physical symptoms when s/he thinks s/he is going to be separated from his/her home or significant family members?
The Quirky Kid Shoppe has select useful resources for parenting and children experiencing Separation Anxiety and others forms of Anxiety.
How can the Quirky Kid Clinic help your child?
The Quirky Kid Clinic is a unique place for children and adolescents aged 2-18 years. We work from the child’s perspective to help them find their own solutions. If you suspect your child may be experiencing symptoms of Separation Anxiety, you might consider one the following options:
- Book an individual session with our experienced Child Psychologists
- Register for the Why worry workshop and Sydney or register for Why Worry in Melbourne or
- Contact us for more information
American Psychiatric Association:Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
Kimberley discussed toddler smacking with reporters at the Daily Telegraph. You can find out more about the dangers of hitting your toddler by visiting our resources page or discussing it on our forum.
The full article is available on the daily telegraph website.
If you have a story and would like to discuss it with us, please schedule a time. Kimberley O’Brien enjoys sharing the best of her therapeutic moments with the media.