T Portal: Psychologist Warns: Although It Is Often Done With Best Intentions, The Most Dangerous Thing Parents Can Do Is Compare Their Children”

Elma Katana, a journalist from T portal spoke with Center’s psychologist Swea Jelić Tuščić about brothers and sisters: “Many parents are very concerned about fights between children, and although these powerful conflicts can lead to negative consequences, one needs to know how these conflicts lead to learning how to compromise, reconciliate, apologize and accept an apology and develop emotional control, which will certainly be a valuable skill further in life”, explains Swea Jelić Tuščić, a psychologist from the Child and Youth Protection Center of Zagreb.

The most common cause for competition between children is the desire for as much parental love, attention and recognition as possible. Moderate levels of conflict between brothers and sisters are a positive sign that every child is capable and feels safe enough to express their own desires and needs.

A unique kind of relationship created by siblings

”The most competition and conflict can be observed in children of close age and children of the same sex. Because they have a lot of touching points, similar needs and common interests, they can get along and be the biggest rivals at the same time. The competition between siblings usually reaches its peak between 10 and 15 years old children. Even though your kids are now fighting and pulling each other’s hair more often than you would like, they have a good chance that one day they will get along very well. Also, when you see that your children have turned against you, or they watch each other’s back, you can feel happy because this way they strengthen their relationship and create that special connection only siblings have “,says the psychologist.

The type of relationship created by siblings is unique and is unlike any other relationship that a child has the opportunity to build, she added.

”Relationships with siblings shape the overall development of a child, and it not only forms us through a number of everyday interactions, it affects the level of our mental health. Children, and later adults, who have supportive relationships with their siblings, have a greater sense of security in life and more easily handle loss. Recent research shows that the existence of a younger sister is a special benefit to boys, making them less prone to develop aggressive and delinquent behaviors”, she says.

Many parents are concerned about constant conflicts between their children, but it is important to know that unless they are serious in a way that a child is being hurt or feeling unhappy in this relationship, they have their good sides.

”Rivalry among siblings, as well as everyday conflicts, provide children with the opportunity to find compromises, pacification, emotional self-control, apologies and forgiving in a safe environment,” said psychologist Swea Jelić Tuščić.

Parents should not determine who is guilty

It is important to encourage closeness, she added, as this relationship will later be a source of emotional and social support for the child.

“It is well known that one of the main causes of rivalry between siblings is a struggle for parental love, attention, and the time devoted only to them. When we observe it from that point of view, we can see that parents can significantly contribute to a better or worse relationship between their children“, she said.

Parents should not fall in the trap and look for the guilty party in conflicts because then we enter the struggle of power with children, which should not happen. We hear from children “He started it”, “Why am I being punished when … ” when this way we’re actually making their conflict bigger than it is.

“Focus on solutions and compromise rather than the need to determine the guilty one. Instead of this behavior it is much more useful for the whole family to participate in creating family rules of behavior, but also agreed ways of responding to demanding situations. All children need to know which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, also the consequences of the behavior they choose to do, regardless of what the other child did”, she said.

From the rules themselves, the consistency is even more important.

”Children always have to know how they are expected to react, for example, when your brother hits you – you cannot hit him back, but look for help from your mum. When the conflict happens, if the children cannot solve it, then we just go back to the rules. We can say to a child: ‘I know he hit you first, but you know it is not allowed to hit, so you also made something wrong”, she explained.

What is important in parental care is to perceive each child individually from their siblings.

“We cannot and should not behave towards every child the same as every child is different, but we should therefore know our children very well in order to meet the true needs of each of them. Some children need more recognition, others don’t even notice when they are being praised nor do they  focus on their self-image, some children need more encouragement, and some more peace … “, says the psychologist.

“It is usually the most difficult for children who are different in temperament or interest from parents or siblings (for example, the whole family is very active, and one child loves routine and peaceful activity). It is then necessary to bear in mind the needs of that child and to give space for things that suit that child the best“, adds Jelić Tuščić.

Do not compare your children

The most dangerous thing parents can do, even though they do it in their best interest, she says, is to compare their children.

“Although parents hope to encourage them to change behavior, telling them to look up to their brother or sister is more likely going to hurt them, and the child could create an idea that parents value the other child more. Small children are especially very self-centered in their minds and they quickly think that mom and dad like them more than their brother because they are experiencing constant comparisons“, she said.


Favorizing boys over girls

In patriarchal societies, which partly refers to our society as well, male children are often favored at the expense of female children, says the psychologist, but what is still much more expressed are different expectations from children of different sex.

Unfortunately, gender stereotyping is omnipresent in our society, for example, the media and the toy makers, and it is difficult to bypass it even in the children’s upbringing. For boys, it is expected that they exhibit certain behavior, firmness, doing sports, while in a girl a ‘softer’ approach is tolerated. Sometimes, even some games or toys are masculine and other feminine, so parents are often worried when boys want dolls or to cook or when girls act more fiercely. But it is worth knowing that everything children do is beneficial for their emotional development. Experts, for example, know that a game of nursing with dolls is important for both boys and girls, that they develop sympathy, caring, and empathy. Of course, we must not forget that parents and their behavior are the first models of behavior for children, and we must first check to see if we as parents behave accordingly to what we are “preaching”, reveals the psychologist.

There is no need to talk about the differences between children in front of other people because it embarrasses them, and they must not be criticized in front of others, as it causes a sense of shame, very unpleasant and destructive and therefore undesirable emotion, she warns.

‘‘Allow children to trust you, listen to them. They have the right to be annoyed by their siblings, but it is important that they show it in an acceptable way. If they come to you to complain, show understanding as it is not necessary to find a solution right away. The problem becomes smaller when we talk to someone about it, and if we give them understanding and compassion, the children are definitely winning. Every child should have peace and time for themselves, but also time alone with each parent. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort and additional practical support, but it is important to children because it shows them that they are very important to you and that you have done a great deal to be alone with them. Is there a more beautiful message of love? Also, whenever you notice the positive behavior or their closeness, praise them and express the pleasure with what you see. Encourage socializing and cuddling and create common experiences and family traditions. Most siblings remain connected throughout adulthood and are a lifelong source of emotional and social support. There are also siblings who grow apart or completely lose contact, but this is a less common case “, said the psychologist.

By studying different families, says Jelić Tuščić, experts working with families found some established patterns that do not have to be a rule, but are often common enough to distinguish them as typical, regarding the order of birth.

How the order of birth influences the character of a person

“It seems that first-born children, as well as individuals, are more self-sufficient, more ambitious, and achieve a higher level of academic expertise, and at an early age they have a more developed dictionary. This is explained by undivided parental care, time and other resources that parents invest in a child. Sometimes older children may be more anxious because parents are more concerned about their first child and often expressed protective attitude while with the next child parents are more relaxed and flexible in parenting style, “says a psychologist.

Every next child, though getting “less” from a parent, has a brother or sister who compensates for what parents cannot offer, so it is noticed that younger children are more likely to walk or talk under the influence of the older brother or sister.

“A lot of the time spent playing with siblings contributes to greater imagination, creativity, sense management, self-control, and learning to resolve conflicts. It is precisely why younger children in the family are better at teamwork and in solving conflicts than firstborn or only children. Younger children are sometimes frustrated, but it depends on the dynamics and the rules of a family, and they are often assigned a ‘favorite’ status, which can be difficult for other children, so it should be avoided. Every child should be seen as an individual for themselves by emphasizing their own specialties”, emphasizes psychologist Swea Jelić Tuščić.

Read the full text on the link: https://www.tportal.hr/lifestyle/clanak/psihologinja-upozorava-iako-to-cine-u-najboljoj-namjeri-najopasniji-sto-rodatori-mogu-raditi-je-porediti svoju-children-20190309

Photo: Matej Grgić / T portal

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