5 Ways to Defuse Sibling Rivalry

Can We Give the Baby Back?

Sibling rivalry. The very phrase makes a parent squirm, conjuring up off-putting images of youngsters battling for attention and acceptance. This is particularly troubling when an older child sees his infant sibling as a nuisance who cries all of the time and is the center of attention. Even worse, your older child may begin to mutter disheartening phrases like, "I don't like the baby anymore" and "Can we givedefuse sibling rivalry back the baby?" So what can you do to defuse sibling rivalry?

Empathize with your child. Before the baby came along, your older child had your undivided attention and was the center of your affection. Let him know that you understand what he's feeling. You might say, "I know it's tough having to share mommy; and it's OK if that upsets you a little. Those feelings aren't bad; they tell me how much you love spending time with me."

Let your child help with the baby. Kids love to feel needed, especially when it comes to helping Mom or Dad. Ask your child to hold the baby (with you close by, of course) or help push the stroller. Have your child play with the baby and make her laugh by wiggling a toy in front of her face. This will make your child feel important and part of the team.

Spend plenty of one-on-one time together. Shower your older child with extra attention and activities. Something as simple as reading a favorite book or baking cookies together will make your older child feel special. You may also want to schedule regular outings. Ask your husband or a friend to watch the baby while you are your older child do something special, like go to the park or see a movie.

Play up the importance of being a "Big brother" or "Big Sister". Right now your older child probably thinks that babies have it made-they get lots of attention, don't have to go to school and aren't told to clean up their room. Come to think of it, that is a pretty good life. Anyway, remind your child of the advantages to being a "big kid". "You can jump high, throw a baseball and count to 20," you might say admiringly. "The baby still has to learn how to crawl! And when she's a little older, she's going to need you to show her how to do big kid things."

Maintain Routines. Children, like the rest of us, are creatures of habit and find comfort in routines. Keep structure in your older child's world by continuing to display his artwork on the refrigerator, for instance, and preparing his favorite meals.

While sibling rivalry never disappears completely (just wait until those teenage years!), reminding your children of their unique qualities and special place in the family will make for a more harmonious household. 

Updated August 2012