Sibling rivalry is a subject that most parents are not well equipped to handle. They simple assume that when brothers and sisters are part of a family they just will get along. Sadly, this subject is prone to evoke self-doubt, public embarrassment and extreme criticism. Parents may ask, “Why do my kids always fight?” “What am I doing wrong?” “Does this mean I’m a bad parent?” “If I allow the fighting to continue, will they begin to hate each other?” and, “How can I make my kids get along?”
The bottom line is sibling rivalry is normal and should be expected. Sibling rivalry is a natural part of development and has wonderful and positive attributes associated with it, if it’s handled in a controlled and respectful manner. Sibling rivalry also can promote many necessary and developmental milestones in a child’s life. It can enhance a child’s ability to problem solve, resolve conflicts, assess situations, compromise, work together as a team and work through self-doubt and disappointment. But until the process works itself out there are ways to help the siblings in your family get along.
Here are a five ways to help siblings get along:
1.) Develop an atmosphere of mutual respect within your family. This entails setting up a clear policy of using manners, learning to compromise, avoiding labeling, name-calling and violence among other things. Children who are taught from an early age that they must treat those they live with with respect and courtesy grow into much better adults who can treat others fairly out in the world. Do not allow your children to label or name-call within your home and you will create individuals who will not do so out in the world.
2.) If you are the adult in the situation, stay out of it except to monitor the seriousness of the fight. Keep in mind that no one issue is ever black and white and the roots are very long and tangled. Also realize that you will never get an unbiased answer and most of the time you will be put in the middle and have to choose sides. Instead, label each situation on a four-point scale of dangerousness. If it’s a one-point, just harmless fighting, avoid getting in the middle. A two-point situation is semi-serious and requires a description of the problem before leaving the room. A three-point situation is one that is rapidly escalating; assess the degree of potential danger and remind your kids about the need to be respectful. A four-point situation is a dangerous one which requires immediate adult intervention; separate the children and impose consequences.
3.) Make sure that you do not reward tattletales. When one child comes to you with reports of their sibling’s less than nice deeds, reflect their feelings and then have them work it out. You will empower your child and not reinforce the tattling behavior.
4.) Take time for yourself and take a break from your kids. By taking care of yourself, it will not be as easy for your kids to push your buttons and get a rise out of you. It will be lot easier to stay focused and calmer when you are more refreshed. Best of all your kids may respect and appreciate you just a little more when you return from your break whether its ten minutes or a few days away.
5.) Always avoid playing the fairness game. Fairness is one of the things your kids will fight about the most. You should always strive to treat children as individuals and address each of their qualities and characteristics uniquely. Keep in mind that it is simply impossible to treat everyone fairly all the time. A common fight among siblings is that one gets to do something that another does not. Remind your children that they are not all the same ages and therefore do not have the same privileges.
By following these 5 tips, your life should get just a little easier amidst the angst that is growing up and sibling rivalry. Bear in mind that they are kids not miniature adults. Also bear in mind that every adult who is a parent is going through, has gone through or will go through what you are facing so you are neither unique nor alone. Hopefully, between the tips and advice, you’ll be able to enjoy a slightly more relaxing day regardless of whether or not your kids are at each other’s throats.