“Give it to ME!” “I was still using that!” “You have THAT one!”…. a hit, a push, a grab, two screaming children.
About a year ago I naively thought our family had somehow avoided the gauntlet of sibling rivalry. In hindsight now, I can’t believe I could have ever been so blissfully ignorant. Jack and Sarah were 3 and 1 year old. They would squabble, take each other’s toys, the odd push but definitely no hitting and no ear-piercing screams as each child goes into complete meltdown.
Well hasn’t the little bubble that I was living in popped! Some mornings the first thing my children will say to each other is, ‘No. Go away’, as they both elbow each other to be the closest person to us as we lay in bed.
Our morning snuggles in bed used to be such a beautiful way to start the day; everyone together, arms wrapped around each other, peaceful and happy.
Now it seems everything is in limited supply; there are only enough cuddles for one person, only enough blocks for one person. You need to be the first person to go through the doorway or the first one to choose a chair at the dinner table and then all other chairs are unacceptable.
It’s exhausting. Exhausting for all of us. I know that Jack and Sarah don’t like being cranky all the time. I know they would rather be playing happily together. I know that they love each other completely and are each other’s best friend. I know that.
But the fighting. The fighting wears me down. I find it very hard to stay calm and remove myself from the intensity of the situation when the fighting starts before I even get out of bed.
Some days I feel I have a lot of healing to do, a lot of damaged relationships to mend. Some days I don’t respond well, those are not good days.
I have come to realise though that with every squabble, with every fight, every push and every scream, there is a little person desperately trying to tell me something; asking for help and wanting to be heard.
So rather than reacting to the emotion-charged situation, I am trying to respond with kindness and an open heart. I’m trying to look beyond what is happening and hear what those little voices are trying to say; please pay attention to me, I would like to play too, I’m not quite finished yet, this is important to me, I’m feeling very tired, I’m hungry, I need some time alone.
I think once I can hear what is truly being said, I will be better prepared to support Jack and Sarah as they learn to negotiate their own social situations more effectively.
I don’t think there are ’10 Tips to Stop Sibling Rivalry’. I think what we need to do is listen and, the thing I find most difficult, let go of that sudden impulse to stop the fighting, especially as I feel my stress levels rising.
I think we also need to stop fearing those strong emotions. Intervening with gentle firmness (blocking hits) but recognising that our children aren’t hateful or malicious but rather their misdirected behaviours are clearly telling us a very real need.
All this takes strength, consistency, time, lots of closeness filling our children with positive affirmations and a well rested Mama and Papa.
So with that, I’m off to bed for a good night sleep, ready for tomorrow.
How do you cope with rivalry between your children?