Being a parent to multiple children is a formidable task. Whether they’re close in age or a few years apart, adding more kids means more work, more chatter, more love and care of course but it’s still exhausting. If one thing makes it worse, it’s bickering, fighting brothers and sisters. When kids fight with each other, it makes everything tenser and it’s just another thing on a long list of priorities that suddenly gets bumped up to the top. Now, there are a lot of reasons that people point out as being causes of sibling disagreements: competition, perceived inequality, general poor attitude or just plain jealousy.
But even with the knowledge of how and why siblings fight, it’s harder to find ways to get them to get along and most importantly formulate the lifelong loving bond that only brothers and sisters can understand. Here are a couple of ways to alleviate conflict and support their sibling relationship:
1. Encourage teamwork and involvement. Just like in an office, team-building exercises help children understand the perspective of their brother or sister if they work together. For kids that are closer in age, having them work together on puzzles or playing on the same team together in sports or board games helps them foster a sense of mutual partnership. If they’re approaching something with a similar mind and working together, they’re more likely to remember that perspective when a problem between them arises. Try to find ways to put their interests together during creative or play times. If one likes to draw while the other prefers to play with dolls, suggest that the artist draw their brother or sister’s dolls. If one wants to build with Legos while the other wants to play with Hot Wheels, suggest that they work together to build a driving course for the cars to drive through. There’s usually some way to find a way to involve each child’s interest, so that they’re developing a relationship during play time together rather than apart.
2. Make sure gifts are equal or even mutual. Grandparents often have a difficult time remembering this, so make sure that you alert them. To curb birthday envy, or anytime gift-giving arises, make sure that each child gets something so that no one feels left out. Around the Holidays, having your kids write joint letters to the North Pole often helps. You can sign up for a video from Santa that addresses both kids, so that there’s no preconceived idea that maybe Santa favors one child over the other. Also, ahead of the holiday, you can have a letter from Santa Claus sent to your home addressed to everyone at once to reaffirm that being put on the Naughty or Nice list isn’t a competition.
3. If your kids are a little further apart in age, like mine are, there’s a lot of possibility for older sibling jealousy with a baby or a toddler who might not be as self-sufficient as they are. Kids acutely perceive inequality and sometimes take that feeling out on their younger brother or sister. Introduce your older child to their little sibling by having them help with their chores and needs. Have them help feed the baby, or read them picture books, or hold their hands while they learn to walk. Having a shared sense of responsibility distracts older siblings from their initial feeling of unequal treatment and fosters a sense of importance and responsibility that will keep siblings that are further apart in age closer for the rest of their lives.
4. Build traditions and memories together. When kids have memorable shared experiences and positive memories, it’s easier for them to remember why they care about each other and shouldn’t fight. Strong, positive memories are good for building lasting relationships and speeding up the time that it takes for forgiveness after a fight. Family vacations and getaway trips are great for this sort of thing when siblings experience new things together. Holiday traditions, like crafts at Thanksgiving dinner or counting down the days to Christmas with a personalized countdown calendar from FreeCountdownCalendar.com are great ways to routinely build up positive memories year after year.
5. Don’t expect them to get along all of the time. Naturally, kids are going to fight or disagree or just be grumpy with one another. Kids get on each other’s nerves! But don’t fret about that because disagreements are normal and you can’t force them to get along 100% of the time. Also, children can perceive what you’re feeling and they’ll react to that. If you’re nervous about them not getting along, they’re going to find their relationship to be a source of discomfort for Mom and it’s only going to make a bad conflict worse. It’s okay to just relax and accept that there’s no perfect way to make brothers and sisters get along one hundred percent of the time. Remember, it’s okay to let them work out their feelings between themselves sometimes.
These five tips will help you guide you the next time you find yourself breaking up a dispute between your children. Ultimately, if you are patient and encouraging, you’ll be able to help your children become friends.