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How To Deal With Sibling Rivalry In Toddlers

Common Concerns

Q: My toddler seems to be constantly pushing, hitting, and basically making life miserable for my ten-month-old daughter. Should I never interfere?

You have to protect your baby from a toddler who treats her like a rag doll. But try not to make a big deal of your toddler’s aggression. As soon as your baby is around one year old and more physically adept, she probably can handle a little more messing around from a toddler.

Q: Do you think that it is all right for a family to divide up on weekends? We have two children, and often my husband and I each take one child and spend time alone with that child.

As a steady diet and for long periods of time, dividing up may not be a great idea. If you are rarely together as a unit, you can be passing on the message that it is not fun to be together as a whole family. But I love the idea that at certain times each child gets special, individual attention from his parents.

Q: Is it a good idea to give presents to both my toddler and my other child when one of them has a birthday?

It’s nice to give everyone who attends the party a favour. But the presents should go to the birthday child.

Q: When my three-year-old and my sixteen-month-old fight over toys, the older child always wins. This just doesn’t seem fair.

When parents interfere, the fights almost always seem to escalate. In the very near future (it may even be happening now in small doses), your children will begin to negotiate. I know it is difficult advice to hear, but I recommend extending your threshold as much as you can.

Q: I like the idea of my children playing with each other’s friends.

Your children should have the opportunity to develop their own friends. I don’t think an older child should regularly baby-sit a younger sibling, nor should a younger child constantly tag along with an older sibling.

Sibling rivalry is a natural, normal situation because every child yearns to have his mother and father all to himself. When parents decide to play judge and intervene, the fights only become worse and the children angrier.

Your children will learn to resolve their own battles. They will also learn how to compete, negotiate, and love. Left to their own resources, each sibling will take turns playing the role of the helpless, misunderstood wimp and the hateful, mean-spirited bully. In truth, the less parents interfere, the less children will hurt each other and the less they remain locked into the role of “bully” or “wimp.”

Sibling fights are training grounds for the real world. If you can trust your children to form their own relationships, the end result will be a loving, cherished one. Your children will also gain confidence and self-esteem.

However, staying out of your children’s relationships does not mean that you ignore their feelings. Parents need to help their children articulate and understand their emotions. You don’t want them growing up feeling bad about having “bad” feelings.

Remember, your children are allies. In every family the parents should stand firmly on one side and the children on the other.

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