Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sibling Rivalry

Deconstructing Sibling Rivalry

Tricks for Muslim Parents

Although sibling rivalry is normal, it can be rather taxing if it persists without any guidance for reform in a positive light.

Every mother knows that raising a child is full of challenges. However, once that first precious child becomes an older brother or sister, a new challenge emerges for parents – sibling rivalry.

The "HE'S NOT BEING FAIR," to "SHE RIPPED MY DRAWING," to "I NEVER WANT TO PLAY WITH THE BABY AGAIN," to "I HATE HIM!" are all loud telling signs of sibling rivalry. The quieter signs are the grumpy sulks in the corner of the house and the cold treatment from one sibling to another.

Although sibling rivalry is normal, it can be rather taxing if it persists without any guidance for reform in a positive light.

The trick mostly is to honor your children as unique individuals with distinct personalities and strengths. There are a lot of advantages in diversity, and children should learn how to capitalize on that. Remind them that Allah created a diverse population, and within families too; there are differences for each member to benefit from.

Also, it is important to tell the kids gently and remind them that though we can choose who we befriend, Allah has already decreed our siblings. In fact, siblings have been chosen for all of us, as our closest companions, and this is very true while growing up.

Although it may be frustrating when the baby tears down the "tallest tower in the world," or when the eldest is being a bit too bossy, siblings are the closest relations your children have genetically; ties between them should not be severed.

As parents, we can help cultivate the closeness of siblings camaraderie, helping everyone get along, work together, and love each other unconditionally.

Honor Their Personalities

Everyone is different, respect that. Some children are louder than others. One may need more quiet time than his brothers. One little sanguine girl could have a little brother with a melancholic disposition. An extrovert boy is no different from his introvert sister, as these are both special personality traits that have advantages and disadvantages.

The important thing here is not to compare – no child is better than the next, whether it relates to their personality traits, strengths or interests. The more we focus on the postive aspects of the above, the more children will find that they are appreciated as individuals.

Get to know their unique personalities and honor them. When each child finds that mom and dad respect them as individuals, the higher the likelihood that they will also respect each other as individuals.

Figure Out Their Love Languages

Learn to love your children and their love language. Gary Chapman, the author of "The Five Love Languages," lists down our five main love languages as: undivided time, touch, gifts, positive affirmations and acts of service. Every person speaks at least one main love language followed by a secondary love language.

Similarly, each of your children expresses and understands love in a different way. For example, some children love to be hugged more than others, while other children thrive when they are able to spend undivided quality time with their parents. Figure out your child's love language and you may find that it differs from his or her sibling.

This way, you will be able to "show" love to each of your children differently, to honor their differences and to remind them that no matter how much different they are, you love them all the same.

Learn About Their Interests and Their Strengths

Children thrive the most when they are engaged in activities that interest them.

Interests are different from one child to another (but could very well be the same) and they change from time to time. So keep up with your children's interest and indulge in them as well. If two or more siblings are interested in rocks, for example, that's even better, have them work together on building rock gardens or painting rocks.

Finding common interests is a good way to build relationships.

Capitalize on their strengths. Every child has unique strengths, so recognize them and help them develop their hobbies even more.

Recognizing that each child has unique strengths will help them be appreciative and secure of themselves, and in turn will help them appreciate their siblings as well.

Carve out a Niche Each and Imbue Respect for Each Other

Now that you recognize their personalities, love languages, interests and strengths, allow them to flourish in their fields and encourage their siblings to cheer them along.

This has to happen for everyone. When siblings see each other as different but special beings that they have as companions, they will learn to respect and love each other even more.

Always remind them that there are reasons why everyone is good at something, and it's important to lend support whenever possible.

Come Together – Work as a Family

Make a list of rules and guidelines to build good kinship. Once our children realize that they are all different, unique, special and treated with equity, teach them how to value each other.

No Muslim is a believer until he wishes the same for his brother or sister, what he wishes for himself. We need to teach that to our children. If one sibling is feeling down, do something to help him out. If a sister is in need of a glass of water, help her quench her thirst.

Being nice and working together is a good guideline to work by. It sounds simple, but it is also very easy for children to fall into malicious footsteps and instigate trouble amongst each other.

Remind the older ones that sometimes they are being influnced by Satan to cause trouble amongst those who care about them the most. Teach the younger ones to respect the older ones and always capitalize on "family time" for them to come together and express their feelings.

Simple guidelines to help siblings work together is to read to each other, discuss their interests, to share their toys, and to help tidy up the home, with a duty roster if needed. If someone is hungry, help make two portions, so it can help feed another potentially hungry stomach.

If there are groceries that need to be stored, everyone must take part in helping out in the kitchen. If the yard needs cleaning, everyone has to get involved.

Working together and being nice encompasses all the mini-rules that exist in unique households. The rules are there, not to punish, but to enforce appreciation for each other and the family unit.

When Quibbles get the Wiggles

No matter how much you try iron out the problems related to sibling rivalry, there may always be bickering. View this as a learning curve and things will get better.

Separate them for a bit, calm them down, give a gentle reminder to the perpetrator(s) and move on. Every time your children exhibit good behaviour, by working together or sharing toys, remember to praise Allah and praise them too.

Tell them that you are happy with them and hope that they will always be this nice.

Make Du'a for Your Children

Make du'a, plenty and plenty of du'a, for your children.

A mother's du'a goes a long way. Ask for guidance and protection. Ask Allah to bless your children. And ask for the little things too – for them to get along, to love each other and to protect each other as brothers and sisters in Islam.

Ask for Allah to keep ill feelings at bay, like jealousy and envy. Jealousy and envy amongst loved ones have nearly always led to catastrophes like inheritance squabbles at best and the severing of family ties at worse.

We see it all the time and we hear of it through our friends, our neighbours, our distant relatives. Make du'a for your children to always care for one another, for their future children, and their nieces and nephews.

Family ties are precious in Islam, and it is important that we impart this value onto the next generation, because they will be the parents of the future.

There are many blessings in having more than one child.

Having siblings, teach children how to share and to be considerate of other people's feelings. Our children will have to deal with all kinds of people in a patient and kind manner.

We have to hone into these advantages as parents, as siblings are important members of any family, even if a little bit of rivalry surfaces from time to time and that is normal and natural for any set of siblings.