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Toddler Sibling Rivalry: How I help my toddlers get along

Having toddlers competing for attention is always a challenge but here’s three ways I’ve tried to help them get along.

When my second daughter was born barely a year after my first, I knew we had to learn how to help them get along. Since they are both girls with very little age gap, sibling rivalry between my three year old and two year old girls was inevitable.

I knew there will be a little bit of smacking and pinching, pulling and pushing here and there. But overall, I’d imagine they would grow up and be the bestest of sisters who would stand by each other through and through.

However, building that relationship foundation begins now while they’re toddlers. Sometimes they love each other, sometimes they don’t. It can be confusing at times, but that’s just the way they are now.

As I mentioned before in my post about teaching kids to share, young ones have a strong sense of ownership and find it difficult to let other kids play with their toys. This is perhaps the number one reason my girls fight. That and what movie we’ll watch on TV. One wants Dora the Explorer while the other one wants Barbie.

It would be nice if I could give each them all the toys they want or a movie with both Dora and Barbie in it. But that won’t really solve or teach them anything.

Attention is key

Though sibling rivalry cannot be completely eliminated, there are ways to minimize them or prevent them.

I learned that one key factor to nip rivalry in the bud is attention. Oftentimes, the bickering happens when I’m not looking or busy with something else. But I find that when I focus on them both and give them equal attention, they actually enjoy spending time together and they get along quite peacefully.

Since we have two kids, the ideal set up would be one parent is focused on one toddler. But during those times when I have to take care of my girls all by myself, it becomes a challenge of equally dividing my attention, affection and sometimes, even my body to make sure that each child receives the quality time she deserves.

Here are three ways I prevent sibling rivalry between our kids:

1. We’re all in this together.

During quality bonding time, I always try to keep everyone inside the circle. When Jamaine builds a boat and asks me to hop on board so we could sail away to Treasure Island, I always make sure Iya joins us so we’ll have more explorers on our ship.

When the princesses want to dance and I’m the only dancing partner around, I give them one hand each and we all dance together. During meal times, I would sit in the middle.

At night, before sleeping time, I squeeze myself in the middle too. I always try to place myself in the middle to make them feel that they are equally special to me.

2. One on one.

Of course, there comes a time when one of them gets distracted and wants to play on her own. I use this as an opportunity to spend one on one time with them.

But when I spend time with Kalia, I still keep an eye out for Jamaine just in case she starts feeling antsy or she needs attention. When that happens, I would try to invite her to join Kalia and I, or I would leave Kalia to do her own thing and spend time with Jamaine.

This way I get to spend time with each of them while they also have their own space away from each other.

3. One after the other.

Close to sleeping time, sometimes my girls get a little bit cranky and both want to be carried or rocked to sleep.

When I have the energy, I usually carry them both at the same time (Oh yeah, I’ve got really strong arms!)

But when I’m feeling really, really tired, I carry them one after the other. Of course, I’ve got some explaining to do to help the other child understand why I’m carrying the other one first.

Being bigger, usually it’s Jamaine who gives way. But I always tell her that I’ll carry her once her sister falls asleep.

And even if I’m so tired that I just want to crash into bed, I make good on that promise and carry her afterwards. It would be tempting to say, “You’re a big girl already, you’re heavy, so you shouldn’t ask to be carried.” But I carry her, because she is still very much my first baby. A big sister, yes, but still my little girl.

A note on comparison

Whether consciously or unconsciously, there will always be a tendency to compare your kids. Especially if one is behaving better than the other, we might tend to favor the “kinder” child more.

We might say things that include words like “Just like your sister (or brother)…” in a feeble attempt to make the other child act in the way we want to.

This is a common pitfall I always choose to avoid with my kids. Comparison feeds rivalry and hurts hearts.

It’s always good to remember that each child is different. They have unique tastes and preferences, skills and talents, good attitudes and not-so-good attitudes.

Being different doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Being different means each one is very special.

This becomes a challenge for us parents to find a way to deal with our children that is best suited to their personalities. But with love as our guide, we can only do right by our child.