Raising a teenager is difficult enough, but how about when you have multiple teens in the house? As a mom of 3 who also raised my brother, I had 3 teens in the house at the same time. When my youngest daughter entered into her teenage years, my oldest daughter was 16 and my brother who I raised as I would raise a son was 17. It was a fun ride for the most part but there were many instances of sibling rivalry that came up throughout the years.
Sibling rivalry can occur all through childhood but when it reaches the teen years, the rivalry can become very intense causing hurt feelings and frustrated parents. Believe it or not, sibling rivalry does have a positive side. When you think about it, it offers your teen a chance to experience with and learn how to handle conflicts in a safe environment (your home). It also allows the teen to learn how to negotiate, and empathize. It also teaches your teen some hard facts: unfortunately, life isn’t always fair and you may not always get what you want.
Now that I’ve talked briefly about the positive side of it, I know what you are dying to know is how to keep it controlled. There is nothing worse then having parents walking on eggshells and secretly praying that their kids don’t fight at the drop of a hat on a daily basis.
There are many things that parents can do to help put an end to sibling rivalry. Read below for some tips:
Tread Lightly – As your teens grow older, direct mediation of sibling rivalry may not be needed but rules definitely are. If you jump in to the middle of your teens argument, it may just make things worse. It actually reinforces to them that fighting is a surefire way to get your attention. Of course, there should be limits on the noise level and under no circumstance am I suggesting that you don’t intervene if they are becoming physical. it is important to set clear rules and then execute swift consequences for breaking rules.
One on One Time – Your teens want to feel as if they are the center of your world. Set aside time to spend with each sibling on a one-on-one basis. Make the special time about that one child. Let him/her choose the place that you go or the thing that you do. Make the one-on-one time something that does require talking – this may provide some insight into the root of the rivalry between the teens while creating a strong bond with the child.
Keep it Positive & Don’t Compare - Remind each child that they are their own person with their own gifts and talents that are unique to them. Encourage your teen to follow their talents and not compare themselves to others. Many parents compare children to one another without really knowing the damage that this can cause. Instead of making a comment like “when your brother was your age” or “if you would just be more like your sister”, you should focus on the positives of the sibling you are talking to. “You are doing so much better this semester with your school work.” “You are working so much harder to get your chores done and I can tell a big difference.” I find it works best when you positively focus on the teen you are speaking with and keep siblings out of the comments.
Open Dialogue – It is important to keep an open dialogue with all siblings. You can better judge how the teens feel about themselves and each other and what the cause of the problem is when they feel comfortable to talk to you about any and everything.
All siblings are going to feel the need to compete with each other at some time or another, its inevitable. Whether they compete in sports, for grades or for your attention, this is normal. How you handle the rivalry will determine whether your teens grow adults resenting each other or being the best of friends.