- Corporal punishment (spanking) makes rivalry worse.
- Children spaced more than 4 years apart have less conflict (they spend less time together).
- A child’s perception of “favoritism” is a major contributing factor to sibling rivalry (especially as it relates to time spent with a particular child, which may be difficult if one child has special needs).
- Providing equal “alone time” with each child helps. When feelings of jealousy arise, remind the jealous child of time spent with just him/her.
- Prevent fighting whenever possible. Avoid situations that result in fighting (e.g., if certain kids always fight when they sit next to each other in the car, decide ahead to assign seats apart from each other).
- Promote good feelings. Reinforce any good deeds done on behalf of siblings (“Wasn’t it nice of Johnny to unload the dishwasher for you.”)
- Encourage activities that require cooperation (e.g., building a fort, making a puzzle).
- Try to steer clear of competitive games where there is a winner and a looser (or modify the game to balance out age inequalities—change cards or turn the board game every few moves).
- Have family meetings to teach and address problems. At the Wonnacott household, this happens every Monday night. The important thing is to make sure that grievances are addressed with love, everyone participates, and everyone gets heard.
- Ignore the small things. Intervene if things deteriorate or are physical. Never tolerate hitting among siblings.
- Don’t take sides (generally it isn’t worth figuring out who started it.)
- Help children resolve quarrels lovingly. The Wonnacott children have heard the phrase, “you are each other’s best friends” a million times.
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