Lecture Spotlight: Beyond Sibling Rivalry

The final lecture in the 2011 – 2012 Parent Talk Lecture series is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17th at Olin College.  Peter Goldenthal, PhD, author of Beyond Sibling Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Become Cooperative, Caring and Compassionate will be presenting.  Gather for dessert at 7 pm, the lecture will begin at 7:30. The lecture is free for Parent Talk members and $20 for non-members, $25 at the door. We cannot guarantee availability to walk-ins.  Here is an excerpt from the book on the subject he will be presenting.  Read on and then reserve your tickets today here.

Every parent of two or more children has the same dream. It’s the dream of happy children who love each other and who feel more cooperative than competitive, more empathy than enmity, and far more joy than jealousy. We hope that our children experience their family as consisting of people who help each other, and who feel good about helping each other.

What can parents do to help this dream become a reality? There’s actually quite a lot that you can do. In this essay, I’ll provide some pointers especially for parents of younger children, those who are eight and younger. In future essays, I’ll write about what you can do to help older children and teenagers get along and will also share some ideas that may help you in your relationships with your adult siblings.

Let’s start with some of the basic sources of sibling rivalry among young children and follow that with what you can do to address each of them. Here are the “problems”: attention-seeking; lacking problem-solving skills; physical issues such as tiredness and hunger; and believing that the other child is favored by parents.

Children who are hungry or tired are difficult in lots of ways, and one of them is their tendency to pick on each other. So before looking for a more complex explanation for a “fight” between your preschoolers, make sure they aren’t tired or hungry.
Similarly, negotiating with a brother or sister over a toy or favorite place to sit requires pretty high level problem-solving skills. Many sibling conflicts can readily be solved with parental diplomacy and simple instructions on how to “make a deal.”
The first and last items in the problem list are two sides of the same coin. Children who feel that their sibling (or siblings) are getting more attention believe that those children are mom and dad’s favorites and vice versa.
Avoid comparisons (even positive ones) at all costs. Don’t say, “You’re the artistic one, your sister is more a people-person.”  If you do, each child will think that the other child’s talent is the “better” one.
Make sure you have individual time with each of your children.
If attention is the big issue in your home, try feeding that hunger so well that they don’t need to compete for it. Look for every opportunity to notice what your child is doing: “Wow, you are really coloring that blue!,”or“I noticed that you didn’t trip your little brother when he walked by,”or“I noticed that you used soap when you washed your hands.” Aim for fifty times a day. They won’t fight for attention if you do.

Peter Goldenthal Ph.D., the author of Beyond Sibling Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Become Cooperative, Caring, and Compassionate and four other books, is a Board Certified Family and Clinical Psychologist with offices in Narberth.

Register to hear Peter Goldenthal talk more about sibling rivalry at our May Lecture, held May 17th at Olin College. Please RSVP thru Eventbrite.

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