Sometimes kids can't get along. Siblings antagonize, annoy, and tease each other. It's part of growing up. You can't avoid most of it and they can't really help it, either!
But, there are things you can do to ensure a healthy sibling bond, in spite of the sibling spats!
Is there a way to raise siblings who will get along as adults?
While there is no guarantee of anything you do making your kids best friends for life, there is actually a lot you can do to foster a healthy, loving relationship between your children.
One of the biggest things you can do to encourage healthy relationships between your siblings is to maximize the positive interactions between them.
How do I make my kids get along?
This may seem like a daunting task, particularly if your kids are already to the point where it seems like they are constantly fighting.
Encouraging these positive interactions is a lot easier than it sounds, though!
Here is a list of what you can help your kids to build strong bonds with each other!
- Even if they go to bed at different times, make sure they get a chance to say goodnight to each other and maybe give hugs and kisses, if that is what they are moved to do.
- Room sharing, even between sibling of opposite genders, will give your kids the opportunity to talk a little before they fall asleep, and maybe play together while mom and dad get a little extra rest.
- Instead of asking one child to perform a task, ask your kids to complete the mission as a team. Depending on the task, and the ages of your kids, it might be a little messy. Don't worry. This actually gives them another opportunity to work on something else together… cleaning the mess!
- Involve them in some activities together. Playing hide-and-seek, building a fort, play catch by rolling a ball, have the kids paint your and each other's faces, have a potato sack race in some pillow cases, have them help prepare a meal…the list is endless!
- When you notice conflict happening, help your kids work through it. How do you do this?
- Acknowledge how each child is feeling. Give them the language to go along with the feelings.
- Let them know what behavior was inappropriate, then
- give them some alternatives to the inappropriate behavior.
Example: Child: “Mom, he snatch the book I was reading!”
Mom's response: “I understand you wanted to see that book, but your sister was reading it. It can make us upset when we want something and can't have it, but you shouldn't snatch things from your sister. Next time you want a book she has, get one of your favorite books from the shelf and read it. When she puts her book down, you are welcome to have your turn with it.”
And to the child who had the book snatched: “Tell your brother that you will not let him snatch things from you, but that he can have a turn when you are finished.”
- Avoid comparing and labeling your kids. Many parents do this unintentionally, but it is one thing that is sure to damage the relationship between your kids. “Johnny always brings his plate to the sink. Why can't you be like him?” or “Watch how well your sister brushes her teeth. Why is it always a struggle with you?” These are examples of what not to say. As your children get older, the labels grow stronger and the damage becomes greater.
How do I teach my child empathy?
- Model empathy. Parents sometimes tend to think that ignoring bumps, bruises, and negative feelings helps their children “get over” things quicker. Not so.
We need to be helping our kids work through things, not just to pretend these things didn't happen. This is especially important when you have more than one child, because the hurt child needs to feel cared about and the sibling looking on needs to learn empathy.
I'm not an advocate of dwelling and letting bumps, bruises, and negative feelings carry on to the point of disrupting the environment for longer than absolutely necessary, though. If the other sibling is somehow the cause of the hurt, that can make him or her feel more guilt than is deserved.
Acknowledge the hurt child's feelings, give them language for those feelings (and a quick hug) and a technique for dealing with them. Then, speak with the both children on how to handle the situation, giving them perspective from both sides.
- Leave them alone when they are happily playing. We tend to direct and guide children's play. Resist the urge. Your kids are getting along! This is what you want!
- Don't exclude one child, while including another from any given activity. This may mean getting creative or having them take turns. Usually it's easier to include the more capable child (typically the eldest) in a task, but I assure you, there is plenty young kids can help with!
- Periodically sit down with your kids and look at pictures of them as babies; noting all of their similarities and how happy each of them made you when you first met them. Dig up some photos of when they first met, as well!
- Model healthy relationships with your own siblings. Talk to your kids about your own childhood and how much fun you had with your siblings. Share photos and foster relationships between your children and your siblings.
How do I teach my kids to respect each other?
- Teach your kids respect for each other and respect for each other's belonging. Earlier, I talked a little about taking turns. I want to put an exception to that rule.
If an item is special to a child, such as a favorite dinosaur figurine or a stuffed animal they sleep with, they should not have to let their siblings have a turn. The children should be taught that most items brought into the house, whomever they belong to, are fine for taking turns, but there are some things that are special to each child, and that should be respected.
- As well as respect for each other's belongings, they should be taught respect for each other, which includes language of consent. When your kids are playing and it becomes clear that one of the children is no longer enjoying the game, this is when you sit them down and say, “Games are fun, but only when everyone is enjoying them. When someone is upset or crying, it's time to stop.“
- The copying game is an awesome bonding game. Have your children stand face-to-face. Instruct one to make a funny face, then have the other child try to copy it. This will turn a moment of turmoil into a moment of laughter and bonding. You don't even have to wait for a tense moment to play this!
- Limit TV time. I know I've beat this issue into the ground, but it's not really about screens this time. It is about what they are replacing.
This evening, my husband and I were watching our kids play and we were having a blast. It got me thinking, when the TV is on, all they do is sit and watch. Maybe they will occasionally get up and act out a scene from the show, but mostly they just sit there and stare. Replacing freeplay with a movie would be an evening of fun lost for the whole family.
So, there you have it. Hopefully, these tips work for you! My sisters and I are the best of friends.
And by the looks of it, my kids will be, too!
Here's too hoping, anyway!
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