A mom contacted me wondering why her two very young sons – only about a year and a half apart – are suddenly showing intense sibling rivalry. Prior, they wanted to be together all the time and played without friction. Turns out, the older one is starting kindergarten. He’s developmentally pulling ahead of his younger brother. I suspect their sibling rivalry will wax and wane over the years as they grow and move forward at different rates. The older boy will want to establish himself as older, biggest, smartest, and best at everything… while the younger will be right there on his brother’s heels competing. It’s all quite normal and healthy.
But whenever sibling rivalry goes too far, do what this mom did.
As soon as she saw negative behavior in either son that had been designated as unacceptable, a swift time-away was given. Those time-aways would be lengthened or made more frequent if the behaviors didn’t stop. That’s the best way to handle these type normal sibling issues. As a parent, you’re making a clear statement that in our family we don’t disrespect parents or tease siblings (beyond playful teasing), and hitting is never acceptable. By separating from the family, a child gets to first calm himself down and work through whatever anger or conflicted feelings they have (and do it on their own). They also think about how to improve their behavior so they can rejoin the family, It’s important that upon leaving a time-away, children always promise parents that their behavior will improve and specifically reference what got them in trouble to begin with. That increases accountability.