Strategies to Stop Sibling Rivalry

As a nanny, I was very conscious of ensuring that all of the children felt that they had an equal (within reason) share of my time. We used to do an activity called DSNFSE (I know it’s not a very catchy title!) It stands for Do Something Nice For Someone Else. Each child (and I) would write a task that we had to do on a piece of paper and then we’d each pull out someone else piece of paper and have to help them with the task they had requested.

One of the benefits of this activity, alongside it installing values of kindness was that it fostered an attitude of team-work. If you have children who are constantly fighting with each other, consider what games or activities you can do that pushes them into becoming allies. How can you create a kids vs parents in a fun way that creates a scenario where they have to work together?

It is of course important too, that the children feel as if they do get an even share of the parents attention. This is just as important for older children, who may once have been the only child with the parents sole focus. There may be some resentment, now they have to share their time and parents with someone else. For younger children, they have always known life with their older sibling. Do you know who they are without them there?

In one family, I looked after 3 children. The younger two were at first one in nursery whilst the very youngest was at home, then the youngest went to nursery but finished later than the middle child. This meant that during my time with them I’d had some one to one time with both the middle and younger child. I’d have time with the older child after school and in the holiday but the other two were always there.

After 3 years or so, when I came to my last weeks working for them both the middle and youngest child had parties to attend. For the very first time in my very last week I had the oldest child on a one to one and we went to get a pizza together. I discovered this quiet introverted boy that I had never met before! He was unsure of how to interact with me without his siblings there and I realised on how much I’d missed out on having a unique relationship with him over the years.

Getting to spend time with each child individually also created the opportunity to identify the strength and weaknesses of each child.

Get really clear in your own mind about where both of their talents are strongest. This doesn’t have to be an academic comparison; it could be that one is great at maths whilst the other is amazing at making friends. It’s important that you get your own programming out of the way here, because it’s easy to follow that train of thought that the child who is good at maths/English/science is more intelligent or will go further in life but no matter what the skills are, give them equal importance. “Yes, he has better grade than you at maths but you are so good at art. In a way that I have never seen a child been able to do art before in my life. You are so privileged to have those artistic talents. It doesn’t matter that he is better than you at maths because you have got these beautiful skills. We’re not all good at the same kind of thing and I’d love to do draw like you do.”

If you can, create a bridge between what they can do well and what they can’t that would work well, too. “People who are able to draw like that have a natural inbuilt spatial awareness which, interestingly, is something that you learn about when you start learning volumes in maths. Some people have to learn these things the mathematical ways and others already have it instinctively and artistically…”

By Gemma Bailey

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