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Sibling Rivalry

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Finding a Good Family Balance continued...

Don't play favorites. Even if one of your kids is constantly getting into trouble and the other is an angel, don't take sides or compare your kids (for example, "Why can't you be more like your sister?"). It will only make your kids resent each other more. Giving one child preferential treatment can also hurt the relationships between you and your children.

Don't make everything equal. There is no such thing as perfect equality in a family. An older child will inevitably be allowed to do some things her younger siblings can't. Instead of trying to make your kids equals, treat each child as a unique and special individual.

Give kids the rights to their own possessions. Sharing is important, but children shouldn't be forced to share everything. All of your children should have something special that is completely their own.

Hold family meetings. Get together with the entire family once a week to hash out any issues. Give every family member a chance to air his or her grievances, and then come up with solutions together.

Give each child separate attention. It can be hard to spend time alone with each child, especially when you have a large family. But one of the reasons siblings resent each other is that they feel they aren't getting enough of your attention. To let your kids know that you value every one of them, make one-on-one time for each child. Carve out special days when you take your daughter shopping or your son to the movies -- just the two of you. Even 10 to 15 minutes of your attention each day can make your child feel special.

When Sibling Fighting Gets Out of Control

It's completely normal for siblings to fight from time to time. But when fighting escalates to the point that one child is becoming emotionally or physically victimized, it needs to stop. Repeated hitting, biting, or "torturing" behaviors (for example, incessant tickling, teasing, or belittling) are forms of sibling abuse and justification for you to step in. If you can't stop the violence yourself, talk to your child's pediatrician or a mental health provider to get immediate help.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on February 14, 2014
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