Family Meal Time Can Reduce Sibling Rivalry

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

What causes sibling rivalry?

Our daughters are terrible about fighting with each other. They are so different. The 12-year-old gets straight A’s but isn’t athletic at all. Our 10-year-old daughter is amazing at soccer and does okay in school.

Our boys don’t fight. In fact, they leave a room and go play together if the girls are arguing.

The girls are jealous of each other. They battle over who is “better.” They do mean things to each other, and then report them to me. I make them go to their rooms until they get along. It works, but not for long.

My sisters and I didn’t get along either, but we were more alike. I thought because my girls are different, they wouldn’t fight.

Mom of dueling girls

Dear Mom,

Your girls aren’t arguing because they are different or alike.

Children develop sibling rivalry between each other for many reasons like jealousy, labeling by parents or each other, or a need for individual time with each parent.

Placing them in a room alone may cause hard feelings to fester.

Improve family communication and relationships by having sit-down dinners.

Have rules like:

Set a dinner time and give prep responsibilities to each child.

Have your children make small paper name tents. Mix them up each night.

Ask each child a couple of questions every night. Don’t allow taunting, labeling, eye rolling, whispering, or laughing at one another – teach respect by making positive remarks about each child. Don’t talk about problems now.

Have each child take turns helping clean up. This gives them time alone with a parent.

Have a race against the clock, instead of each other, to get ready for bed.

Reward children for their behavior towards each other every day, using a star chart with categories like caring, sharing, and saying, “I’m sorry” when needed. Individually go over it each night. If they had a rough day, ask them what they could do the next day to start over.

Reward your children for good behavior and not only a good job in school. You’ll teach your children to value who they are and what kind of hearts they have toward others.

Hold family meetings regularly and listen to your kids’ opinions about their problems. Ask them for their solutions. This will help teach them how to use and develop their critical thinking skills to resolve problems.

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

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