Overview: Our kids won’t get along perfectly – but our houses shouldn’t sound like a war zone, either. Find out how to help resolve sibling rivalry between your kids!
When your children are playing is it usually free from strife or full of yelling and anger? Do you feel like you need to keep your kids in separate wings of the house in order to maintain your sanity? Do you wish you had a way to slow down sibling squabbles around your house?
Let’s face it. Our kids aren’t always going to get along. Relationships are hard and our kids are just learning some of the interpersonal skills that they will need in order to peacefully coexist with their siblings.
Our children have the capacity to be the worst of enemies or the best of friends. And the way we respond to their squabbles now will make a huge difference in their relationships with each other and with us both now and down the road.
Even though my boys are best friends, there have been times in the past when they had a pretty rocky relationship. And I think that that way I responded to their squabbles made it even worse. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot in the 18 years that I’ve been a parent and I’ve been able to correct some of the mistakes that I’ve made – mistakes which have put unnecessary strain on my boys’ relationship with each other and with me.
We’re never going to stop all of the battles in our homes. But, if we want to slow down the sibling squabbles, there are some things we need to do and there are some things we need to teach our kids to do.
9 Simple Steps to Help Resolve Sibling Rivalry
1 – Listen to them
I can’t emphasize this one strongly enough! It seems like it would be easier to do than it is but our kids aren’t always easy to listen to. Sometimes they use angry voices. Sometimes they are unreasonable. Sometimes they are downright frustrating! But if we make the effort to really listen to their feelings, we will see such a difference not only in their relationship with their siblings but with us as well.
2 – Commend good behavior
When our kids are in the middle of a rivalry, it can be tempting to shout out reprimands left and right. Rather than doing this, however, it is much better if we refrain from pointing out all of the bad and instead wait until we see them exhibit good behavior and commend that instead. Our kids have huge love tanks and they can never receive too many deposits.
Try to hand out 10 compliments for every 1 reprimand. This is extremely hard to do with some kids – but you’ll see a huge change in behavior if you’re successful with this one. Also, if you need to correct a child, try to sandwich it with positive comments. This will make it much easier for your child to accept.
3 – Don’t compare your kids to each other
Often, squabbles are caused by jealousy. As parents, we need to do whatever we can to help our kids not to be jealous of each other. Our children are unique and they all have different strengths and weaknesses. It’s incredibly unfair of us to compare one child’s strength to another’s weakness. Don’t do it!
And if our kids are unfavorably comparing themselves to someone else, be sure to remind them of their positive qualities. Depending on their age, you can also help them to work on overcoming some of the more negative traits that are bothering them.
4- Spend time with your kids
We need to build strong relationships with our kids so that they will want to listen to us. Spend time with your kids – both separately and together. Talk to them. Make good memories with them. If they feel happy and secure in their relationship with you then they will be less likely to lash out at their siblings.
5 – Treat them fairly (not equally)
It’s impossible to treat our kids identically. Even if we try, however, it isn’t going to work out well. Our kids all have different needs. Some kids need more of our time than others. Some need more understanding. Meet each child where he or she is at. Explain your actions when you do things differently for them than for a sibling so that they will understand that you aren’t acting arbitrarily.
6 – Work on empathy
We all have times when we’re tired or upset or nervous and these emotions can cause us to overreact. We all make mistakes. When a rival happens, try to help each child see why their sibling may be reacting the way that he is. It’s a good exercise for us all to try to see where the other person is coming from rather than to instantly react to whatever someone else is doing.
7 – Help them to become friends
Again, having a strong relationship is key. Do activities where you team up the siblings who are having trouble getting along. Help them to see how each of their strengths can work together to cause them to do better than they would be able to on their own. Set up scenarios where your kids are having fun together and building their relationship.
8 – Look for ways for them to serve each other
A great way to turn their hearts toward each other is for them to serve each other. Suggest small things to your children that they can do for each other. Encourage them to let their sibling be right without an argument. This is all about the golden rule. Teach them to treat their sibling the way that they themselves would like to be treated.
The key here is to get them to take their focus off of themselves and their own desires and to put it onto their siblings. Talk to them about ways that they could make the situation better next time.
9 – Have them pray for each other
We all go through seasons when our kids will struggle to get along. When this happens, have your kids pray for each other. Matthew 5:43-45a says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Praying for each other will help them to overcome their disagreements more quickly than anything else.
There aren’t many joys greater than watching your children enjoy spending time together. With a few small tweaks in the way you handle the sibling rivalry, your kids will hopefully go on to become the best of friends. It’s certainly worth the effort that it takes to help them build solid, life-long relationships.
Have you found ways to slow down sibling rivalry in your home? Do you have any tips that you could share? Share a comment below!
Originally written for True Aim Education. Reprinted with permission.