Having multiple children is a blessing and a joy, but it can also be a great challenge. Children often feel the need to compete with their siblings for attention and possessions. As parents we need to teach our children to be independent while also fostering in them a secure sense that they are loved. The following ideas can aid in that process while quelling some of the sibling rivalry that is sure to arise.
Set A Timer. If younger children are having trouble sharing, setting an egg time may be all that is required to restore temporary harmony. Determine which child will have the item first, then set a time for approximately 5 minutes. Remind the children that when the timer rings, the toy will change hands and the timer will be reset. Not only should this end the arguing and grabbing, it also teaches young children patience as they wait for their turns. Consider using a similar approach for older children. One sibling can wear the green sweater this week, and the other child may wear it the next week. One boy can ride the bike this morning, but his brother may have the bike this evening. Allowing a child to know when his turn will arrive may help him to wait more patiently for the item he desires.
Stagger Bedtime. If your schedule allows, stagger your children’s bedtime by 20 minutes or more. Engage older children in an activity, then spend individual time with each child successively, bathing, reading, talking or cuddling until it is time for sleep. This guarantees each child a significant period of special attention from Mom and/or Dad every day and may help alleviate competition for attention during the day.
Make A Date. On a similar note, find time once a month to take each child on a special date. This does not need to be an expensive activity. Simply engage with each child in an activity of his or her choosing for an hour or more a month. Take your son out to brunch. Take your daughter for a picnic in the park. Be sure to focus on what he or she has to say and turn off all electronics during the date. Knowing that he or she has a special time set aside to spend with Mom or Dad may help your child to wait more patiently for your attention during the week and share you more willingly with his or her siblings.
Play Up Strengths. Is your son an excellent trumpet player? Attend his concerts. Does your daughter win medals in track? Cheer for her at her meets. Encouraging each child in his or her own unique strengths will help prevent jealousy amongst siblings. If each child feels that he or she is special in some way, competition between siblings should decrease.
Have ‘Royalty For The Day.‘ If your children simply refuse to agree on anything despite your best efforts, consider crowning a King or Queen for the day. On a rotating schedule, choose one sibling to make all the decisions for a day. King for the day can pick the menu, choose the channel or hog the red car. The next day, Queen for the day calls all the shots. Don’t forget to give Mom and Dad a chance to be royalty as well. If you have very small children you might even consider having a morning coronation ceremony involving a special breakfast or a paper crown. Be sure, however, that all siblings have an equal number of royalty days each month and receive equitable privileges on their special days. If a child knows that he or she will have a chance to be in charge, s/he might be more willing to acquiesce when it is someone else’s turn.
Making sure that all siblings in a family feel equally loved and fairly treated can take a lot of work. However, with organization and creativity you can maintain peace in your house and create special memories with all your children.