You had envisioned many things when you decided to add more children to your family. You had images of brother and sisterly love. You imagined hours of endless giggles as your children played together.
And then reality hit you. Your children are constantly fighting. You often feel you should be sporting a referee shirt and whistle instead of a t-shirt and jeans. You are knee deep in sibling rivalry.
How did this happen? When will it end? You tell your children they are going to be best friends when they grow up – but you have a sinking feeling that maybe that won’t be true.
Relax – sibling conflict is very normal – albeit a major annoyance!
So, can you stop this endless quibbling? Not completely – but there are things parents can do to improve their children’s relationship and end sibling rivalry. Here are just a few:
Do not compare your children.
This may seem obvious, but we are all probably guilty of this at some point or another. “Your sister is ready, we are just waiting on you!” or “Your brother cleaned up his room and I didn’t even have to ask him!” Many of us find these comments flying out of our mouths on a daily basis. Unfortunately it sets our children up for competition and fuels feelings of resentment and sibling rivalry.
Tell your children about how their brother or sister talks nicely about them when they aren’t around.
Younger siblings may look up to their older siblings. Older siblings might find this adoration annoying or borderline stalkerish. You can help this dynamic by highlighting to the less-enamored siblings how much they are adored.
Comments like, “She has been waiting for you to come home all day!” or “She wanted us to save one of these cookies for you. She is always looking out for you!” can help define the sibling relationship in a more positive way.
Create a role model relationship with older and younger siblings.
This suggestion may depend on the type of relationship your children currently have with each other. If your younger child looks up to your older child – you can use this to your advantage.
When your younger child is struggling with a task you can ask your older child to help. You can say something like, “Your sister is having a hard time with her letters. She loves the way you write your letters. Would you mind showing her how to write an A?” This can help your older child feel important, while helping your younger child get that coveted one-on-one attention from his older sibling.
Help your children solve their own conflict and try not to pick sides.
Most of us have greater expectations for our older children. How many of us have said things like, “You are older – you should know better!” It can be a knee jerk reaction to always blame your older child when your younger child is crying.
Instead, encourage them to work through their own arguments. If that is not possible, let them both offer their side of the story. When you have heard both sides – offer problem-solving solutions to each child – instead of offering your judgment of who is right.
The conversation might go something like this, “It wasn’t nice for him to yank that toy from your hand. He could have asked for a turn. When he yanked it from your hand, it wasn’t helpful for you to hit him over the head. You could have told him you weren’t done or you could have ask me for help.”
When we offer problem-solving techniques to our children – they are more capable of solving their own conflict moving forward.
Brothers and sisters often have a love hate relationship. As parents we may not be able to fully change our children’s relationships – but we can do our part to keep it positive.
Do you have any creative ways to keep the peace at your house? Share and leave a comment – we can all use the extra help!
Do you know other parents who are struggling to keep their kids from killing each other? Share this article!
Check out these other article on siblings: