How to deal with sibling rivalries on the trail

Sibling rivalries generally arise out of competition and jealousy of one another, usually because one child is perceived as getting more attention or a favored status. In the wilds, there can’t be anything more than a friendly rivalry. Getting along helps make the experience more pleasant for all, and should an emergency arise, it may be vital for your survival.

While you may not be able to stop the bickering, you certainly can minimize it on the trail. You can begin by trying to prevent the problem from even arising. For example, as a parent don’t play favorites or compare children to one another, especially about their hiking skills. Doing so also is a good way to turn off the criticized children to hiking. When children do start arguing, ask each one involved in the conflict to identify why they’re upset. Then ask them to each come up with some solutions for re-solving the disagreement. If they can’t or won’t come up with solutions, suggest a few of your own. Have them agree to a solution and follow through. When doing this, be careful to not take sides.

Here’s another strategy that parent Jeff N., of Sevierville, Tenn., recommends, “If there’s more than one kid on the hike, rotate leaders who will be the point man and set the pace. Agree in advance when the leadership role will change to a sibling.”

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.

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