How to Handle Children Rivaling

“I have the F seat”

“No, I do!”

“You don’t, I do!”

“Ok, I got here first”

“It doesn’t matter, check your boarding pass, you’ll see it’s my name”


I came in behind the girls and quietly slipped into my seat… despite the uncomfortable prying eyes of the gentleman on the aisle seat next row. I bet I failed his expectation… to jump into the squabble, give a verdict and get the girls quiet!

Somehow, the girls resolved their disputes- all on their own. A few moments later, I stretched out for Apinke’s hands, gave her a warm look of approval and said to her: it’s so kind and considerate of you to concede your seat to your sister… that’s really worthy of emulation!

Then I shifted my glance to Ariike and said: I hope you take a learning from your sister’s kind consideration despite that she is entitled to that window seat?

She gave a mischievous smile like an 8-year-old would, mumbled a thank you and got her gaze right to the world outside the aircraft. Apinke on the other hand, had this confident and healthy self-concept look like heyyy what are sisters for?!

Constant bickering and rivalry among siblings is one family dynamics that parents find messy, sticky, complicated and often, frustrated and exhausted from!

While you can’t stop sibling rivalry entirely, you can reduce its frequency. This means less yelling from the next room, and more peace in your home!

Follow these guidelines to prevent sibling rivalry episodes, and put a quick end to them once they start:

Drop the labels

Labels limit potentials and put children in boxes or confinement that are hard to come out from. Sometimes, these labels become excuses to continue in the same unproductive behavior. When we talk about our “smart child,” “cooperative and obedient child” or even our “wild child,” we create competition amongst our kids.  We want our children to build close relationships. It is hard to maintain positive feelings about someone else when you want them to lose so you can win or be better than them.

What’s more, we shelve kids into one role or another—whether they like it or not. By ditching labels, we give our “not-so-cooperative” child a chance to shine even if she’s not a star, the straight-B student the opportunity to be proud of her hard work, and the “wild child” a chance to do the right thing.

In the aircraft scenario, I could have given a typical response: state the obvious- heyy…why do you like looking for trouble Ariike! Can’t you see it’s your sister that got the window seat?? Then, the label- ‘looking for trouble’ would become a self-talk. She will begin to associate herself in that light and this unintentionally conditions her to keep on that mode and pattern of behavior in nearly all other situations.

I could also have reacted to Apinke like: Haba, see how you are behaving like a child that has not entered an aircraft before?? So you can’t even allow your younger sister a little privilege?? And I know, before we take off, you would have dozed off! Then of what benefit will the window seat be to you?? And again, that strikes at her self-esteem and prepares the ground for another fight!

By staying out of the squabble and allowing them sort out themselves and focusing rather, to cheer on positive attributes, such as teamwork, persistence and kindness, siblings can root for each other instead of competing for their parents’ attention and approval.

(To be Continued)

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