Treating kids equally is unrealistic: they come packaged with different temperaments, interests, and needs. So don't drive yourself too crazy trying to make things always fair when your kid says you're not. It just isn't realistic. Besides, real life isn't fair. The trick is to minimize conditions that break down sibling or peer relationships and can cause long-lasting resent-ment.You can also do the same when your kids' friends come to visit. Use the following ideas to guide you in minimizing jealousy and disharmony among peers and siblings:
• Listen openly. Listening fairly to your kids is a powerful way to convey that you respect each child's thoughts and want to hear all sides: "Thanks for sharing. Now I want to hear your brother's side."The key is to build a fair relationship with each sibling so that he or she knows that you value each opinion and are an unbiased listener.
• Don't take sides. During conflicts among friends or siblings, stay neutral, and make suggestions only when your kids seem stuck. Taking sides builds resentments and feelings of favoritism.
• Don't encourage complaints. Make one rule stick: unless your child is reporting a peer or sibling problem that could lead to injury, don't buy into it. Doing so often leads to rivalry and jealousy. Once the rule is set, be consistent: "Is this something you can't work out yourself?' or "Is this helpful or unhelpful news?"The rule works wonders in curbing tattling, putting others down, and gossip.
• Nurture together time. If sibling rivalry is the issue, maybe it's time to rekindle your relationship with your child so she doesn't perceive favoritism. One of the easiest ways is by having your child spend more "alone time" with you. Capitalize on those individual moments as they arise: "Your brother's asleep. Let's read books together." Or make a date with each sibling to have special time with just you, and mark it on the calendar.Then enjoy each other without other siblings around.
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