Green & red lights on the road of raising siblings

by Munchkins, parent coaching
Baby Yum Yum - Green & red lights on the road of raising siblings
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Few things in life are equally as delightful as they are demanding. Having – and raising siblings is one such a hybrid happening. Here are a couple of “traffic lights” (or common daily themes) on this complicated journey of taking care of more than one creature – as well as the politics between them. Should you stop or proceed?

At the traffic light of ownership

In a home with multiple minors, everything from parents’ attention, space on the couch, toys and food must be shared – often not without a battle.

Green light: Teach sharing

Nothing imposes sharing on a poor little child like the arrival of a sibling! This is a good thing. Encourage your brood from a young age to be generous and to think of others’ needs. Let them experience the joy of altruism by highlighting things like “Doesn’t it make you feel good to see how happy you made your brother?” or “See how nice it is to play together!”

“Each child warrants an equal amount of loving care from you.”

Red light: Prohibiting individual ownership

However, there is a case to be made for personal possession. A child whose toys are always snatched, food always stolen or opportunities always ruined by a sibling will not walk away with a healthy sense for sharing. It may instead produce anxiety and self-defensiveness that could trigger the contrary of sharing: self-absorption and stinginess. Ensure that no child is being bullied in the name of “sharing”. Consider having a “special possession box” for each child, containing a couple of items that he is not required to share unwillingly.

At the traffic light of nurturing

Loving and disciplining your children (which, by the way, are two sides of the same coin) become less straightforward when you are surrounded by multiple personalities, developmental stages and demands.

Red light: Unfair treatment

Each child warrants an equal amount of loving care from you, regardless whether they “deserve” it or not. Favouritism and being inconsequential with rules or consequences among siblings could do great harm.

Green light: Differential treatment 

Being fair, however, does not mean that you should deal with every child in exactly the same way. Each of your little ones is unique and may have different love needs and different temperaments. It will, therefore, require a special strategy to raise each one of them. Make sure you know how to reach each one individually.

At the traffic light of conflict

Among plenty of other new titles, you gain the one of “referee” when you become a parent of more than one. Managing quarrels is an inevitable part of the job.

Green light: Assist in conflict management

Older or stronger children can easily undermine more vulnerable ones. To protect the latter and guide the former to use their power in uplifting ways, you will often need to get involved. Teach them positive ways to handle conflicting interests (e.g. to take turns) and negative emotions, such as anger (e.g. counting to 10 before reacting). Also, your own example in dealing with conflict (especially with your spouse!) will speak very loudly on your behalf.

Red light: Constant interference

On the other hand, always intervening in your children’s battles may thwart their development. Allow them room, in the safe and supervised space of your home, to practise the skills you have taught them. “Debriefing” an incident is sometimes more beneficial than stepping in amid the heat.

At the traffic light of rivalry

Siblings are natural competitors, and the supportive childhood home could be a beautiful training ground for the big bad contest that is adult life.

Red light: Comparison

Never compare one child’s performance, behaviour or appearance with another’s. Be careful what you discuss “behind their backs” – little ears can hear remarkably well! Encourage and develop each child’s unique talents and strengths.

Green light: Allow winning and losing

Being better or worse than others are an inevitable part of life and there is little use in protecting a child against this truth. Celebrate each child’s successes – even if they are more accomplished than a sibling. Make them feel like they are part of one another’s victories by cheering one another on in the home.

Moreover, if someone loses, help them overcome their negative emotions rather than always awarding a “fake win”. An essential foundation of good sportsmanship is knowing your value as a person apart from your performance – something which almost nobody can impart to you like your parents can.

Although it is hard work to be a mother to many, the value that those one-of-a-kind sibling relationships add to your own and your children’s lives make the journey totally worth the effort!

Munchkins: Your brother-in-arms

Do you struggle to juggle parenting more than one little one? Is the fraternity under your roof characterised by strife and strain? The experienced, caring team at Munchkins, our partner in parenting, can assist you to bring the balance. You are welcome to contact them for a coaching session.

raising siblings

Frequently asked questions on raising siblings

Q1. What are the challenges of raising siblings?

A1. Raising siblings presents challenges such as ensuring fair distribution of parents’ attention, managing space and resources like toys and food, and navigating conflicts that arise from sharing and competition among siblings.

Q2. How can parents ensure fair distribution of attention among siblings?

A2. Parents can ensure fair distribution of attention by spending quality one-on-one time with each child, acknowledging their individual needs and achievements, and setting aside regular family time where all siblings feel included and valued.

Q3. What are some effective strategies for managing conflicts over shared resources among siblings?

A3. Effective strategies for managing conflicts include setting clear rules and expectations about sharing, teaching problem-solving and negotiation skills, using time-outs or cool-down periods to de-escalate tensions, and fostering a culture of empathy and cooperation within the family.

Q4. How can parents encourage positive sibling relationships?

A4. Parents can encourage positive sibling relationships by promoting teamwork through shared activities and responsibilities, celebrating each child’s unique strengths and achievements, modelling respectful communication and conflict resolution, and providing opportunities for siblings to bond and create positive memories together.

Q5. What role does family structure play in sibling dynamics?

A5. Family structure can significantly impact sibling dynamics, with factors such as birth order, age gaps, and the number of children influencing relationships. Understanding these dynamics can help parents tailor their approaches to meet each child’s needs and foster a harmonious family environment.

Q6. How can parents balance individual needs with the demands of raising multiple children?

A6. Balancing individual needs with the demands of raising multiple children involves prioritising time management, being flexible with routines, seeking support from partners or extended family, and ensuring each child feels heard and valued. Regular check-ins with each child can help address their unique needs and concerns.

Q7. What are some common issues that arise in homes with multiple children?

A7. Common issues in homes with multiple children include sibling rivalry, competition for parental attention, disagreements over shared spaces and belongings, and differences in developmental stages that may lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

Q8. How can parents manage space effectively in a home with multiple children?

A8. Managing space effectively involves creating designated areas for each child’s belongings, establishing shared spaces with clear rules and boundaries, encouraging organisation and tidiness, and utilising creative storage solutions to maximise available space.

Q9. What is the impact of sibling rivalry on family dynamics?

A9. Sibling rivalry can strain family dynamics by causing tension and conflict, affecting parental stress levels, and potentially leading to long-term relational issues if not addressed. However, it can also provide opportunities for children to develop important social skills such as empathy, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

Q10. How can parents foster a supportive environment for all siblings?

A10. Parents can foster a supportive environment by promoting open communication, encouraging collaboration and mutual support, setting a positive example through their own behaviour, celebrating each child’s achievements, and creating family traditions that strengthen bonds and build a sense of unity.

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