Posts Tagged ‘sibling rivalry’

When Your Kids Compete

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

When Your Kids CompeteSibling rivalry can easily be one of the most difficult parts of child rearing. In our house, no day is complete without a battle between our two boys, ages 3 and 6. When they wake up, they are racing to my bedroom to see who can get there first. It continues throughout our day: Who got the bigger piece of pizza? Who got to the car the quickest? Who is the better Lego builder? Even when they show affection for one another, it’s not uncommon to hear my one say, “Let’s see who can hug the tightest!” Sometimes my house feels like the sibling Olympics, yet everyone seems to be losing.

Recently, in an effort to make our house a little more harmonious, I started researching ways to fix this issue. Subconsciously, I think we had been fueling the rivalry between our boys. We knew we were doing something incorrectly; the problem seemed to be getting worse, not better, with age. When I asked my friends if their children were as competitive as mine, I’d get a mixed response, but for the most part, most assure me that it is normal for two same-sex children close in age to fight. I agree that a lot of the fighting is normal, but research suggests that although it can be inevitable, there also techniques that can lessen these types of squabbles. Here are a few that we’ve found to work.

Bickering Spouses =  Bickering Kids

According to psychologist Jocelyn R. Miller, kids whose parents argue are much more likely to be competitive with one another. Although arguing might seem like an obvious learned behavior, it can be pretty humbling to admit that the same behavior that drives you nuts in your kids is also something you may be doing with your spouse. Although I would say that my husband and I are very happy with each other, we do tend to bicker quite often, mostly in a teasing way. We have always laughed this off as “just the way we communicate,” but when it affects the children it is time to re-learn ways to express disagreements.  We’ve been trying to get out of the habit of jokingly arguing, which we seem to do a lot, and instead use kindness and compassion with each other. There is a definite correlation between our own kindness to one another and our children’s kindness to each other.

Plan One-on-One time with Each Child Regularly

Another big part of sibling rivalry seems to stem from one or more children not feeling like they are confident in the relationship with their parents. Until recently, our family did almost every single activity together. Our kids were never apart except at school or when they had individual play dates. Incorporating parental one-on-one time with each child can help them feel valued and an important part of the family. We are now trying to make sure that each of us gets a “mom date” or a “dad date” with each child separately, giving them time to have our undivided attention.

Give the Older Child an Important Role

I feel like my kids are most connected when my oldest is given the task as nurturer, teacher, or protector vs. competitor. One strategy that we’ve been trying is have my oldest show his younger brother how he does things, such as pouring his own milk in his cereal, to putting on his shoes. When my oldest takes the attention off of “winning” and instead becomes the teacher, both kids seem to focus more on the task and less on the competition.

Avoid Labeling

I am the first to admit, I am absolutely terrible at labeling my kids. For years I have always introduced C as the “rule follower” and the R as the “wild child.” It is hard not to take notice of your children’s differences, both positive and negative. But as soon as you start putting them into a specific box, such as the “smart one” or the “adventurous one,” you’ve pigeonholed them into a specific category and set them up as competitors and not teammates. If you refer to your oldest as the smart one, then your other children will inevitably rebel or battle for that title.


Thankfully, there are many resources available if you are experiencing a similar sibling rivalry like ours. Some of my favorite ones were Dr. Sears and Supernanny. And don’t fret; sibling rivalry is common and normal. With time and small habit changes you can make your home more harmonious and less conflict-driven.

Tessa Wesnitzer is a health and wellness coach who lives in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves her husband, two boys, green tea, long runs, and snowy winters.

Parenting Siblings: Preparing yourself for the arrival of a second or third child.

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Six years ago we celebrated the birth of our first child. His arrival ushered in the start of a new season for my husband and I, but we anticipated that change. There would be sleepless nights, exhausted days, a stretching and a pressing like we’d never experienced, but we expected much of that. We were bracing for nothing short of a radical upheaval in our lives.

Parenting Siblings: Preparing yourself for the arrival of a second or third child.

Fast-forward 18 months later, and we discovered we were expecting baby number two. Having logged a year and a half as parents, we assumed we had this parenting thing down. We’d navigated the waters of first-time parenthood, and we had learned to love with a capacity we didn’t know we possessed. Thus, we didn’t really expect baby number two to be a life-changer.

But then she was born, and the transition impacted me in a way I never anticipated. Suddenly, the demands on my time were doubled and my energy reserves were halved. I no longer had to meet the needs of one child; instead I had to meet the needs of one child with a squalling baby in hand. I was waking at night with our daughter only to be woken with the sunrise by our son. I was exhausted, poured out.

I vividly remember sitting in the rocker shortly after she was born, sobbing. I had expected the transition to be peaceful. Instead, it was stretching me in ways I never imagined.

That was three years ago. We’ve since welcomed baby number three, and I’ve learned a thing or two about making the transition from one child to siblings. Here’s what I wished I’d known then:

Every pregnancy, every birth, every child is unique. Don’t expect your postpartum recovery with number two to be like your recovery with your first. It may be similar, but there’s also a chance it will be drastically different.

Be prepared for the hardships of a newborn all over again. That seems obvious, but I think it’s important to be mentally prepared for your life to be turned upside down, again. Only this time, you’ll have an older child in the mix.

Know that you’re not robbing your firstborn of something, you’re giving them a gift. In the months leading up to your second child’s birth, you may feel guilty about the fact that you will be upsetting the only family dynamic your first child has ever known. That’s a common emotional response. I felt like I was cheating my son in some way, but I also quickly learned that instead of cheating him, I was giving him the gift of a sibling.

Plan some one-on-one time with your firstborn. Whether it’s a special date or simply extra cuddle time and a story when the baby is napping, plan some dedicated time for just you and your first during the day or week as needed.

Embrace baby wearing. If you haven’t yet, now is the time to get a quality baby carrier. They are fantastic when you have one child; they are a lifesaver when you have two or three.

Enlist help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and receive it graciously. If you need a few moments to rest, another set of hands, or help with meals, ask a family member, a neighbor, or a friend to assist you. They will likely consider it a privilege, and you’ll get some much-needed assistance or a quick break to breathe.

Give yourself grace. You didn’t parent one child perfectly–you’re certainly not going to parent multiples perfectly. It’s OK. Give yourself grace when the days are hard, and extend that grace to your children.

Shalene Roberts is a writer, photographer and mom to three. She blogs at Faith & Composition where she muses on gracious homemaking, intentional mothering and inspired living. Her ϋber popular post, When Mothering is Hard and No One Sees, received 500,000 hits. Her heart yearns to inspire mothers to see the beauty in the everyday mess, and the magnificent in the mundane. 

Becoming a Big Brother or Sister

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Becoming a Big Brother or Sister

My daughter was about seventeen months old and still nursing when we found out she would become a big sister. She was nine days shy of being two years old when her baby brother was born. Our pregnancy was not planned, but was welcomed, though all I could think about was my sweet daughter poking the newborn in the eye and proudly saying, “Eye!”

We made sure her routine was not changed when he arrived; grandparents came and stayed at our house to make this easier. We let her be the first person other than mom and dad to meet her baby brother; she was excited to meet him and constantly loved on him. Once we brought him home we made sure to give her plenty attention anytime he was sleeping.  It did not hurt having a birthday just nine days after he was born, either. We made a big deal about it, and she loved the day being all about her.

We let them interact together under close supervision on the floor. She got to give lots of kisses, give him toys, or help mom get a new diaper. You could tell he adored her from the start.

If you’re worried about the arrival of a new baby and how becoming a big brother or sister will affect your older child, here are some tips to make the transition a smooth one:

  • Go through your child’s baby pictures with them and explain that they used to be a baby, too. Tell them stories about things they did when they were a baby.
  • Read developmentally appropriate books about childbirth/new babies with your child.
  • Visit friends or relative who have new babies with your child to help them get used to the idea and learn how to act around and treat babies.
  • Take your child to a doctor’s appointment so they can hear the baby’s heartbeat.
  • Make a space low enough for your child to reach with baby things like diapers, wipes, extra baby clothes and toys, so that they can help you with diapers changes or retrieving baby items.
  • Keep books or toys near your nursing/feeding area that the older child can play with during feedings. Don’t feel bad about using the TV or iPad to keep your older child entertained during feedings, either. There will come a time when you don’t have to do this as much.

I think the hardest time for her (and me) was when I nursed the baby and really could not play with her. I used the TV so that I could make it through a feeding without having to clean up a new mess. She chose these times to get into something she was not supposed to, a cry for attention when she knew I could not focus on her alone.

Today she is just over three and he is fifteen months. I get so much joy from listening them play together. The best sound is the belly laughs–they can get each other laughing over the smallest things. The tables have turned now; I am now worried about him poking her in the eye and saying, “eye.” I am so thankful for my blessings and that she became “the Big” when she did.

Kristen Beggs is a mom of two who enjoyed watching her daughter transition from being the only child to the big sister.