Helping to Minimise Sibling Rivalry



This article is contributed by: MindChamps PreSchool


Sibling rivalry is natural and normal. Many children compare themselves to their siblings, and often seem to be competing for their parents’ attention. However, if sibling rivalry has become so intense that one child is appearing to suffer anxiety, or is beginning to lose motivation towards learning, then it is time to take action.


As parents, we can take action to ensure we minimise sibling rivalry. We need to do our best to ensure all of our children feel they are receiving love and attention. Here are some suggestions for minimising sibling rivalry and ensuring all your children are motivated to learn:


Avoid Comparison Comments. Refrain from making comments which make a comparison between children, particularly in relation to their learning.


It’s tempting to think that we can motivate our child by saying things like “Why can’t you just do better and learn your numbers as quickly as your sister?” Unfortunately any kind of comment that creates a comparison between children leads to one child feeling they are not good enough and is very de-motivating.


We want to make sure our children feel equally loved and accepted for who they are individually, and for their efforts.


Get to Know Your Children. Be conscious to refrain from focusing on telling your child what you want or hope them to be. Avoid the temptation to transfer your own unrealised ambitions onto your child. Instead, focus on regularly asking your children about their interests and what they feel are their skills and talents. Every child needs to feel accepted for who they are, not what they think others want them to be.


The world is a diverse place, and we need to celebrate this by first accepting it in our children and building their confidence through this acceptance.


Adjust your Expectations on Performance and Career Options.  Research tells us that children perform better at school when their parents have belief in their ability and expect them to do their best. However we must be careful not to be unreasonably demanding with our expectations but instead match it to each of our children’s academic talents and interests.


Being fixated on a narrow set of career options for our children – such as a lawyer, doctor or accountant – might bring prestige or social standing to the family, but for children who are not actually interested in these careers – it can be a great cause of stress.


Remember, we are focused on creating balanced, healthy, motivated, happy adults who are fulfilled, happy and passionate about their career of choice.


Focus on effort and ‘Personal Best’.


Be mindful of how you reward your children. Giving rewards to children have traditionally been focused on results – such as achieving a certain Reading Level for example. Rewards can be in the form of giving attention, praising or making comments to your friends such as “Jill is so clever, she can read at Level 16”. Even facial expressions and body language all carry very strong messages which reward children. The problem with giving rewards for results is that children feel pressure to continuously perform, and they will always compare their results to those of their siblings. Children become focused on doing well to please their parents, in order to be ‘more loved than their sibling’.


We recommend that parents focus rewarding children when they are making an effort, not just when they achieve results. For example, if your child is learning to read a more challenging book and you can see clearly that they diligently trying, then praise this by making comments that acknowledge their effort, such as “I can see how much you were trying, well done”. When parents reward their children for the effort they make, the natural consequence of this is increased motivation, increased time making an effort and then, logically, better results.


Parents should also celebrate when children improve their results in comparison to their own previous results. A child can only do their personal best – whether they are at the top of the class or not and whether they do as well as their brother or sister, or not. The most we should expect from our children is their own personal best.


Find out how each of your children learn.  Not everyone learns the same .Siblings can have completely different learning styles. A child whose learning style matches their teacher’s is very lucky because essentially they’re ‘speaking the same language’. Unfortunately, a child whose learning style is completely different from their teacher’s is at a distinct disadvantage – they may feel their teacher is speaking another language.


Some children are Kinaesthetic (physical) Learners and need to ‘do’ something physical in order to learn. Other children are Visual Learners, and need tools like graphs and pictures to help them learn. If challenges resulting from a child’s learning style can be identified when the child is very young, then this gives the child the best opportunity for success.


It is advisable that you research Learning Styles, and talk to your child’s teacher, as this may give valuable information about your children’s ability to be successful in school.



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