“Who needs a tornado when I have the two of you at home?” I recall my mother saying this to my younger sister and me whenever we got into a fight. What did I know I would feel the same a couple of decades down the line!
Honestly, I think Abraham, 7, and Elle, 5, are more dangerous than tornadoes, floods and volcanoes put together. They manage to turn the whole house upside down and yet only elicit “What lovely kids, couldn’t hurt a fly!” from all those we know.
Apart from usual kiddo stuff, sibling rivalry also plays a role. And anyone who has children will know that sibling rivalry and jealousy is one of the most difficult and disturbing things for parents to handle.
I’ve found the hard way that long lectures and threats don’t work, and eventually figured out ways not to let their rivalry get out of hand (or on my nerves!). If you’re in the same boat as me, try out these fun and simple things to reduce tension in your home.
Keep aside two days a month when you and your partner switch roles with your children. You become kids and they become parents for a day. Let them make all the decisions -- what to eat, where to go, what to watch on the TV, or even who gets to watch the TV, mommy or daddy. This does not mean you actually let go of the reins of the house, only that you make it look like you have and that they are in control. This will make them realize the position their parents are always in.
Agree to some of the rules they make for the day, but disagree with most of them (that’s how they behave, after all) and watch how they address your demands and bickering.
Your partner and you must pretend to fight and when your kids interfere utter the most important lines: “You are being so unfair, you love her more than me.”
See how your kids react. Watch if they try to appease you or just get flabbergasted themselves. If they are trying to make you happy and resolve your problems, observe carefully their techniques and tactics and use the same on them. It will work most of the time.
This will achieve two things. You will gain an insight into their minds, and they will get an understanding of what mommy and daddy feel like when the kids are constantly fighting and complaining. Empathy is a good thing to have in a relationship and this exercise helps a lot with that.
I know this is not going to work forever, but for now it does and am I thankful for that or what? You might think that competition will actually increase the rivalry between siblings, but strangely it does not if you pit them against each other in productive activities. The sporting spirit I was trying to inculcate in them for the longest time seemed to surface in them automatically after these competitions. And to let you in on a little secret, this is actually a good way to get them to do what you really want them to.
Have Activities Where Both Are Equally Involved
It’s taken me some time to understand but I have finally realized that the main reason children fight is to gain your attention. So, as a parent the most fun and yet the most challenging thing for you is to participate in activities and events where both your kids feel equally loved and cherished. Imagine the day your elder one is supposed to go to school for the first time and your younger one is vomiting and crying. How do you be a part of your elder one’s excitement, drop him at school for the first time, when you are freaking out about the health of your younger one?
Give your first-born a tight hug and promise him that you and his younger sibling will be there waiting at the school gates with a surprise for him when school is over. You get time to look after your younger one as well as keep your elder one happy.
Similarly, birthdays can be tricky situations, especially when children are very young. When all the attention and gifts are being showered on one child the other is bound to feel ignored. Keep the other child involved by assigning responsibility to her. This will make her feel superior and empowered and dissolve the sadness and resentment she may feel at not being the center of attention. Keep taking updates from your tiny angel and let her leadership skills develop. She has not just your attention now but also additional power and control. Not bad I would say!
We all know that to have a household entirely free of sibling-rivalry and fights is neither possible nor desirable. Most of the times, fights between siblings are cute to watch because there is so much love and innocence involved, but then again it should never be allowed to escalate to levels where things spiral out of control and differences turn into bitterness. Try out the suggestions mentioned above, they do give respite in most situations, but at the same time accept that kids will be kids. They will fight, be impossible, and drive you mad many a time. Don’t worry and don’t obsess over them too much. A calm mommy is the best mommy!
Millie Rainer is the content strategist and writer specializing in home improvement. She’s associated with Only Hangers, a clothing hanger company in Miami, dealing in wooden, metal and other hangers since 2005. You can look her up on Twitter @MillieRainer.