Mother and Baby

He Hit Me First! Coping With And Understanding Your Toddler’s Sibling Rivalry

Defusing rivalry between your little ones isn’t fun but it’s manageable with some strategic moves

It’s not unusual for your toddler to want your sole attention, so he may resent his siblings for getting in the way. But this issue can give you a chance to teach your child good habits and can be resolved with a few simple tips. And, no, it doesn’t involve having an extra pair of hands.

Why sibling rivalry occurs

At this age, children aren’t yet able to understand other people’s points of view, which is why resentment can rear its ugly head.

‘Some children get along with their siblings and others don’t – for most there will be a complex interplay between being caring and being competitive,’ says Sue Asquith, childcare expert and member of the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years. ‘Rivalry can be positive as your children need to learn how to negotiate and compromise, but it can quickly get out of hand.’

Set a good example

Your toddler learns by watching you, so if you have a disagreement with your partner be diplomatic to show your child how situations should be handled.

‘Agree on a joint approach – handing situations in a calm and consistent manner will set a positive example and show your toddler how to cope with differences in opinion,’ Sue explains.

Use praise

We all love a pat on the back, so use praise to discourage naughty behaviour between brothers and sisters.

‘When your toddler has behaved well towards his sibling, take the time to praise him and he will know that you recognise his hard work,’ says Sue.

Share the love…

Where possible, spend time with all your children together encouraging them to interact with each other as well as you. 

‘Divide your time fairly so your kids don’t feel ignored and tell them all you love them,’ says Sue. ‘If your first born is experiencing difficulty sharing you, explain why his new sibling needs your help and attention – involving him in tasks and caring for your new baby may help.  Explain that you did these things for him when he was little, too.’

Divide your time fairly so your kids don’t feel ignored

…but stay neutral and set boundaries

Steer clear of getting involved in the middle of your children’s arguments.

‘If is safe to do so, let your children sort their own dispute,  as taking sides could cause more issues,’ explains Sue. ‘Implement house behaviour rules for your children and explain why they’re in place, so they’re more likely to stick to them and respect them.’

  • Author: Lucy Dimbylow

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