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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Monday, March 24, 2014

Resolving Sibling Rivalry Through Playground Time

Blood is thicker than water, but for them, having the same blood is a big problem. If you have more than one kid at home, you’ve probably encountered what I’m about to tell you - sibling rivalry. Even with the same blood running on their veins, siblings will always reach that point where they would quarrel about some stuff. Yes, it’s all but natural and normal.


This normal flow of relationship between siblings is an issue that every parent is faced with. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, sibling rivalry and jealousy are composed of competitive feelings and actions that often occur among children, brothers and sisters, within a family. However, this issue does not only put stress on the kids, rather pushes the parents to take sides as well. Oftentimes, parents just settle and leave the kids fighting, but it this healthy to your household?

The Reality of Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry is a result when parents, favor a particular child over another. Purdue University explains that in 174 families, there is a higher tendency of sibling tension when fathers favor a certain child compared to mothers favoring the other one. According to a study by Becker and Tomes in 1976, children in larger families are less healthy as compared to smaller families. More specifically, the health status of children worsens by 17% as sibling sizes increases. The 1998 study by Morduch and Garg titled, Sibling Rivalry and the gender gap: Evidence from child health outcomes in Ghana, states that rivalries will be reduced by lifting the time and credit constraints faced by parents which are yet to be determined. The University of Michigan explains that more often than not, sibling rivalry may sprout due to sibling jealousy of a new baby during the birth of the second child. Though seen as a negative thing, the University of Michigan explains that working through sibling rivalry enables closer relationship between siblings. Further studies show that sibling rivalry could result to mental effects such as depression and anxiety. A study conducted by the University of Hampshire, focused on 3,600 children, showed that 32% of these children have been bullied by their siblings or have experienced sibling rivalry in children and have shown signs of depression and anxiety.

Reasons for the rivalry
Rivalry between brothers and sisters springs from sibling envy or lack of attention from the parents. Some children were found to be overly sensitive as per their parent’s preferences and standards. Most often than not, parents unintentionally tend to speak of words of comparison which sticks to the minds of children. Moreover, whenever parents fight, children see this as a model for treating the different squabbles they have with their brother or sister.

Playtime for Peace
As research showed how sibling rivalry is rooted from a different perspective on attention and a different concept of equality, parents are encouraged to constantly increase kid’s exposure to other kids. As such, having a regular playtime for your children, while teaching them the lessons of generosity and peace, is highly encouraged. With the various playground equipment out in the market today, children’s skills are highly developed and enhanced. At the same time, parents could monitor their kids and some of the conflicts they encounter. Having a regular playtime encourages a healthy relationship between parents and children since you are able to hone their reasoning skills and concepts of right and wrong at a young age over simple things which they deem crucial.

Dr. Rich Gaskill, a professor for Wichita State University’s (WSU) Play Therapy program, explains that playtime or play therapy could be used to resolve a child’s external problems such as domestic abuse, divorce, violence, including sibling rivalry. Gaskill further explains the need of playtime as the universal language of kids. He explained that it is through playtime that kids communicate through play and the playground is designed around this fundamental aspect of child behavior. Dr. Ruth Hitchcock, director of the play therapy in WSU, explains that children are required to express themselves and must gain both freedom and respect towards a healthier state. As such, parents should be the ones responsible in implementing a regular time in the playground to reach a common ground for their children, may it be certain playground equipment they could share, or a simple sand castle they could build together.

Other than spending a regular play period in the playground, parents are encouraged to apply or avoid certain things which lead to sibling rivalry.

Parents should:

1. Keep quarrels to themselves and become role models. Whenever fights occur in the household, it is advisable to keep the children away and parents should avoid shouting, slamming the door and among other violent reactions. Though indirect, these actions trigger violent reactions of children towards conflict which they may apply in their petty squabble with their brother or sister in the playground over taking turns in the swing or in the sandbox.


2. Complement their strengths and unique personalities as individuals. Praise your kid over small victories such as conquering heights in 5-feet high wave slides or even climbing a junior horizontal ladder. Even at an early age, kids should understand that every person is given a unique talent and that they should learn to focus their attention into developing such talent given unto them.

3. Keep a regular family time and make it fresh and interesting. Have a scheduled meeting every week where you could talk to your kids about their shortcomings and even the issues in their school. This way, you could encourage an open communication within the household and establish a stronger connection within family members especially siblings.

4. Implement a reward system. As parents, you should learn how to catch their attention even at playtime in the playground and revert this to something that could be beneficial to you. The reward system involves giving them a prize whenever they have done something good, such as helping a kid in the playground or sharing a candy to her brother. However, every time a reward system is given, it should be explained well in order to give the child the impression that everything has its reasons and understanding is the key to resolving things.

5. Teach the value of sharing. Having kids play and share their toys not only with their siblings but also in the playground as this could lead to peace between siblings. In the world of kids, toys are their most important possessions. As such, sharing of toys means truce between two kids, like playing tic-tac-toe in the playground.

6. Treat each child equally. Lack of equality is the root cause of sibling rivalry. Equality is not just measured by the material things given to children but includes the amount of time spent with kids, the attention given to them, and even the discipline given to them.

7. Be the referee. Being a parent is an all-around job, it is a job of different professions wherein you are expected to become a teacher, doctor, chef, chauffeur, and even referee. Whenever conflict occurs, parents are expected to end the quarrels as referees. When squabbles evolve to violent reactions such as hitting and spanking, parents are responsible for stopping the conflict.

8. Leave the solution to the children. During petty squabbles, children should leave the solution to the kids. They should encourage the kids to knowing the correct move towards achieving peace between them. This way, you are teaching them self esteem, respect, and freedom over the decisions and choices that they make. Imposing over their decisions always leaves to them thinking that you are taking one side over another. On the contrary, leaving the solution to them makes them realize what is right from wrong.

9. Never get tired of explaining. As parents, sibling rivalry is something we have heard and know of. Kids will always have something to ask about and parents should answer them and explain each detail carefully until the child understands it. Leaving a kid hanging on to a decision which does not make sense usually leads to a negative overview to a parent’s decision-making authority.

10. Prepare the older child when you’re expecting a new baby at home. The arrival of a new baby leaves the impression to the older kid of being neglected. As such, kids feel sibling jealousy and are threatened that they will be neglected. In cases as such, parents should have included their older son or daughter into the planning of the baby. Oftentimes, this means explaining their upcoming role as older sisters and that he or she is important to this glorious event.

Parents should not:

1. Compare. All people are born unique and each has talents that they must hone. Comparing siblings encourages competitiveness at the least setting where it is needed. Comparison notes only the weaknesses and gives little credit to the strengths one child has over another.

2. Set high expectations. Like comparing kids, setting high expectations gives stress to a child who has to meet with the demands of parents. Having children live in a stressful environment causes a child to look into himself and develop anxiety due to his failure of putting up with the standards set by parents.

3. Ignore the little things. Sometimes, the little things make up the most of everything, especially for kids. The worlds of kids revolve on playtime and family time. Ignoring the little things cover the daily chores, the sharing of toys with other kids in the playground or even the simple act of saying thank you and admitting a mistake by saying sorry. These small things occupy the biggest part of their childhood and their hearts. Parents should be able to acknowledge all these things.

4. Intervene and play the role of a judge. Parents should not settle the arguments between siblings. Instead, parents should be the referee. The only time parents must intervene is when the kids are about to resolve the conflict through violence. It is up to the parents to explain the reason of intervention and listen to both sides of the story while maintaining a peaceful talk between the two.

5. Neglect their children’s emotions. Parents must not set aside the feelings of their children as these feelings grow as they grow older. If bullied in the playground or at school by other kids, learn how to reach out to the children through tapping into their emotions. Kids have tendencies to hold grudges which are not healthy for child development, physically and mentally. As parents. it is your duty to give them tips on what they should do to address the bullying while taking extra steps of talking to the teachers about the recurring problem.

6. Be unfair. Every child that you have must be treated equally. Fairness means seeing the good in every child, while investing time and effort to each, equally as well. In material things however, give the same amount of time for play with each and every kid that you have, may it be taking turns in the swing with you pushing them one at a time or watching over every kid in the slides.

7. Play favorites. Though it is unavoidable, parents should stop saying “you must be like your brother,” “you should have done this as your sister did it,” or “your sister is better than you.” All these statements bring competitiveness at the wrong concept. Moreover, parents should never have favorites as this encourages neglect of one child over another.

8. Yell all the time. Do not yell all the time, you are setting an example for kids to do as something normal people would. Remember that you are your children’s role model. In their eyes, you are the epitome of what they should become. Yelling all the time is one trait that you should never practice at home.

9. Encourage competitiveness. Parents should not encourage competitiveness in between siblings. One is not required to beat another child especially if you are in a family.

10. Implement a punishment system. You do not want your children to follow your rules and instructions just because they are scare of you right? Fear should not be nurtured at home; it should be love that drives people to do things.

Sibling rivalry is something every large family encounters. However, though this is seen as a recurring problem, people should be aware that it could be resolved. Why don’t you start by establishing a strong relationship between siblings through playtime in the playground or with other commercial playground equipment? With this simple step, you are sure to build rapport between the two kids.

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