We parents are happy to watch our children get along and play together and it does upset us when our children fight. So much of our time is spent in settling their disputes. It is concerning for us to see one child being mean to the other. We long for them to be kind and loyal to each other. After all,aren’t siblings meant to be friends for life?
It might come as a surprise to most parents that often it's our very actions that generate this rivalry among our children! Unthinkingly, we make statements and take actions towards our children, simply because we have heard or seen them all our lives. Let's stop to question some of these practices.
“Come on, let's see who finishes their food first.”
We say this to our children to get the job done,eat quickly, get ready in time etc as our intention is to get the tasks completed. But at what cost? Children grow up competing against one another, always wanting to prove who is better, faster and smarter. And each time one loses, it builds resentment against the other one.
“Why can't you sit and do your homework like your brother?”
We have this mistaken notion, that if we say this, the child will get motivated to emulate his brother. Comparison ends up demotivating the child as he feels his parents think less of him. This can also lead to having pent up anger towards his brother for being conscientious.
“Wow, you are so smart! We are so proud of you. Let's call Thatha Paati and tell them you got a medal’.
Yes, we do feel proud of our children's achievements and want to celebrate. The achievements of one child can be hard for the other child to take. They get the message that a child is loved more only when they achieve something. There are situations where it is always the same child who achieves more than the other. Can we find ways to show our joy for the child who has achieved in a personal way without making it a public affair? Can we give all our children the message that we love them unconditionally irrespective of whether they bring home prizes, medals or good marks? This would go a long way in each child feeling cherished.
“ Why must you be such a bully? You are so rough with your sister”.
Children fight and there is always a reason for it. Some children may find it hard to manage their anger and may hit out. It helps to not be quick to condemn one child as a bully or to rush in to protect the other. As parents, it is very important to teach them to interact with each other without taking sides. Making it clear that hitting is unacceptable and to learn to express themselves to each other without hurting each other. “Looks like you are really angry that Akka broke your toy. I can imagine you are upset and in our family hitting is not allowed.Use words to tell her how you feel.”
“He is small. You should give in.”
This is one of the most potent statements that sets the stage very early on for jealousy among siblings. The older child is already dealing with being displaced from the centre of attention when the second child is born. And now,his parents expect him to give in to everything his younger sibling wants. Guaranteed to make him hate the new addition to the family!
When we invest in making sure no child feels compared, inadequate or labelled, we will see cooperation and warm feelings between our children. As parents, we play an important role in building among our children a caring and nurturing relationship.
Author: Kesang Menezes is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.