Have you had to deal with sibling rivalry or do your kids compete with their peers and it makes you wonder if it is good for them or not?
The issue of competition, especially among siblings, is as old as dirt. And yet, I wonder if it isn't time to use these conflicts to teach our kids about a different possibility.
This week's Be You Parenting radio show focused on competition. In dealing with this issue, the first place to look is at the parent's concept and experience of competition and how that may be contributing to the destructive competition the children are expressing.
One thing to keep in mind, is that not all sibling spats are bad, or that you should try to eliminate them altogether. These experiences can be the teaching platform where you guide your children into more awareness, empathy, and empowerment to handle these situations differently. This will prepare them for the outside world where people are all different and don't always get along.
Here are some tips for handling competition within your family:
- Make time for connection- being fully present with your child- sometimes our children are competing with technology and other distractions to get our attention. This may play out in various forms of behavior. Taking time to be with each child daily as you listen to them and focus solely on them, acknowledging their thoughts, feelings and actions.
- Don't compare your kids to anyone- not another sibling, not another peer, not a TV character, no one and not to you as you were when you were their age. They are not better than or worse than anyone else, just different.
- Fairness doesn't mean equal- Fairness means that each person gets what they need, and that can be different for everyone.
- Talk about feelings- How did it feel to not get what you wanted? How did it feel to lose the game? Acknowledge feelings as real and true in the moment. This will give you information about how they deal with the loss, of not winning or getting what they think they should have. No need to fix feelings. You can give them guidance as to how long they would like to feel this way and is it possible to feel something different by doing something different?
- Teach/model how to calm down- some people take competition very seriously and get very upset when they don't get what they thought they would. Exploring different options for calming one's self is highly beneficial for all of us. Children need to be taught different strategies. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Be aware of how you handle competition with your siblings/peers/ coworkers- your children watch you and if they see you fall apart when you lose a game, or see you whine when your older sibling gets a raise, or watch you get really angry when you favorite team loses the Super Bowl, know that you are teaching them about how to react to competition.
- Develop a Team Spirit- where everyone is supported no matter the outcome. Focus not on what was lost, but what can be done to get better. Make the challenge about how one can improve one's self. It isn't about anyone being better than anyone else.
- Talk as a family about what is important- what does respect, honor, kindness look like and how do we express that with each other?
- Be grateful for each experience as it is the opportunity to learn something and to grow and to guide your children into deeper, more meaningful relationships.