Sibling Rivalry? How Parents Can Help

Filed under: Research Reveals: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Big Kids

sibling rivalry

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Parents can help improve relationships between squabbling siblings -- by shipping one to Bolivia and the other to outer Mongolia.

Actually, that only seems like a good idea. A highly motivated little brother will still track his sister across the globe and break all of her crayons.

Children who bully siblings are more likely to bully peers and romantic partners, says researcher Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied family studies at the University of Illinois' Department of Human and Community Development.

In an interview in the quarterly journal Vision, Kramer says parents can teach siblings basic conflict resolution skills to enable them to solve their own problems without parents having to threaten to knock some heads.

"It's based on perspective-taking, but it grows into a problem-solving approach where you can offer a lot of different ways to solve the problem," Kramer tells Vision. "It could be sharing, turn-taking or something else."

"Every day we have countless opportunities to make decisions about the ways we parent our children, all of which may have an impact on how the children get along," she adds.

In an article accompanying Kramer's interview, Vision editors suggest parents also guard against playing favorites. They note it may be difficult for parents to recognize that some of their well-meaning actions reflect bias, but "self-honesty about this destructive influence could mean the difference between a lifetime of camaraderie between their children and a lifetime of suspicion and resentment."

Just think of the Smothers Brothers: "Mom always liked you best!"

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.