Somehow my granddaughter has gotten it into her head that when her two year old brother turns three he will magically mature and listen to her five year old wisdom. “Ooh,” she gripes, “You are two and you are just a baby, but when you are three you will listen to me and you will remember all the naughty things you have done and you will be so sorry!”
She is going to be sadly disappointed on his birthday.
Sibling rivalry is real and it is the bane of many a parent’s existence.
Oh, you will always run across parents who loftily announce that they don’t allow strife in their homes and that their children are not allowed to disrespect their siblings. To them, I say, “Congrats on giving birth to more than one compliant child, your advice has no bearing on my reality, please stop talking.”
Because, the vast majority of us have a combination of: compliant kids, strong-willed kids, shy kids who need quiet, kids who love chaos, and kids who refuse to fit into any box at all. Expecting all these different personalities to coexist in harmony is really just a pipe dream.
There are different schools of thought on how to handle sibling rivalry. Some parents act as mediators and try to help their kids reach compromises. Some take the approach of staying out of all quarrels unless blood is involved. And, some bounce back and forth between these two methods (depending on how exhausted they are). You will find that parents will defend “their” method to the death. But, I believe there is no one right answer for every situation (and even if there were, your kids would find a way to thwart that too).
I’ve shared before how once (in a brief moment of parental genius) I made my two pre-teen daughters sit next to each other until they shared something they admired about the other. After 30 minutes of stony silence, my eldest finally told her sister that she “REALLY liked her zits”. So much for brilliant parenting.
You can run yourself ragged trying to help your kids get along. But, the reality is this: they WILL fight. So, my goal was never to make sure my kids lived in peace and harmony at all times, but that ultimately as adults they would respect each other and turn to each other for love and support. To this end, I taught them negotiating skills and how to compromise. I stressed how important it was to step into each other’s shoes and look at the situation from their sibling’s point of view. And, I told them they’d need each other when I became a senior citizen because I planned on causing as much trouble as possible. That last one got me the most mileage.
Even after all of that, my kids have very different and unique personalities and there were times I was sure that they would never speak to each other again once they had that option. But, I am happy to report that this wasn’t the case.
For, now they DO have that option. And, they choose to be together. They choose to support each other. And, they even ask each other for advice.
I sometimes didn’t think I’d make it through those years of seemingly endless battles. But now, watching my adult kids interact with each other and knowing that they will love and support each other when I’m gone, brings me immense joy.