When it comes to your kids getting along, sometimes you can end up feeling less like a parent and more like a referee. Sibling rivalry is something that most families experience to some degree. Whether it’s a simple squabble over a toy or a full-blown fight with lots of yelling, these sibling rivalries can leave you feeling exhausted.
From Fight Club to Friendship
Even though the conflict between siblings is common, it can feel hard to figure out the best way to stop the arguing and help your kids get along peacefully. With a little parental guidance though, you can help your kids learn to get along and develop healthy, fulfilling relationships with their siblings.
Here are some ways to turn sibling rivalry into sibling harmony…
Avoid giving older children too much responsibility.As a parent, you have your hands full all the time. It can be helpful to ask your older kids to step in and help with simple tasks such as getting diapers, driving siblings to school, etc.
But, as much as possible, try to avoid asking your older kids to be in charge of your younger ones. This will allow the sibling relationship to be focused on building fun memories, rather than arguing about who is in charge.
Try not to compare.All children are unique. No one likes being compared to others, but this is especially true of siblings who have to see and try to live up to one another on a daily basis.
Give each child in the family their own goals and levels of expectations they can live up to. Too much comparison could lead kids to feel like it is a competition between them and their siblings. Instead, focus on the skills and growth areas of each of your kids on an individual level.
Listen to their feelings.It is ok for your kids to express anger, frustration, or hurt towards each other. However, kids may not always choose helpful or productive ways to express their feelings. As adults, we have learned over time to express ourselves in ways that don’t hurt the people around us. Kids need to learn these conflict resolution skills too.
Acknowledge their feelings and then talk them through how best to handle them. Saying things like “I know you may be angry at your brother, but it is not ok to hit him” will help open the door to conversations about healthy ways to manage their feelings, while still allowing your kids to feel heard by you. Empathize with their feelings and then work together to problem-solve with them.
Foster a team spirit.Create opportunities for your kids to be allies and work together. Doing so will allow them to learn how to work harmoniously as a team.
Assign kids tasks that require them to cooperate and work together–ask them to complete a chore or help make dinner–so they can have a fun experience as a family. Learning how to work together with their siblings at home will also help them be successful in teamwork with others in the future!
Laura Lebovitz Laura@growcounseling.com