Most, if not all families, with children who are relatively close in age have dealt with or are dealing with sibling rivalry issues. If your children don’t get along 100% of the time you as a parent are not entirely to blame. There has yet to be a how-to guide explaining how parents can create a rivalry free home. That is not to say that there are not some things that you can do to minimize sibling rivalries in your home. There are definitely a number of ways to keep the peace at home.
Start with understanding
Just as with any relationship understanding and empathy are important in the resolving of conflicts. As a parent it is your responsibility to teach your children about the principles of empathy and you yourself must exemplify the lessons that you teach. Through understanding one another’s feelings a lot of conflicts can be calmly resolved (although this change will not happen over night). Encourage your children to put themselves in their sibling’s shoes and to try to understand what they are feeling, instead of allowing feelings of anger to control emotions.
There are times to share and times to be alone
Many times siblings argue over issues of space or possessions. It seems like one child is never content with his or her own toys and instead insists on “borrowing” the possessions of a sibling. I know that the issue of sharing was one of the greatest sources of rivalries when I was growing up. It is up to the parents to decide what types of things are appropriate to share and what types of things should be reserved as off limits. After all, not even married couples share everything. This principle should also be applied to spaces in your home. There are likely areas where everyone is welcome such as a living room or kitchen, but children also need spaces of their own. This does not mean that every child need his own room, but even just having his own bed or desk in that room that he knows is off limits to everyone else.
Teach problem solving skills
Children are at a great advantage if they can learn to empathize with their siblings but there still needs to be an element of problem solving available if that child is to actually solve a problem and hopefully prevent that source of anger from occurring again. Some of the most basic principles that are essential to children when they are to solve their own problems with their siblings are patience and negotiation or compromise. Patience is needed in order to discuss the problem in a calm and organized manner. Obviously if both siblings cannot exercise patience with one another this will be something that you will need to work on before you can expect them to work out their own conflicts. As the siblings talk they can negotiate with each other and come to a compromise that both parties are happy with. Problem solving skills are far more difficult to internalize than you may think. Some adults are still struggling with problem solving skills. This is why it so important to show your children by example how to resolve problems and to use various techniques such as role-playing and story-telling to help internalize the skills you want your children to develop.
Keeping the peace and minimizing sibling rivalries is not easy task, but you are not alone. Seek the advice of other parents who may have similar rivalry issues and ask if they have any strategies that they have found work well. Many times family members who have had children (such as parents and grandparents) can offer more specific insight into how you solve conflicts when you were young.