I donât remember who said it first but the best way to stop sibling rivalry and sibling squabbles isâ¦ to not have siblings.
Have your children drawn an imaginary (or real) line down the middle of their room or in the back seat of the car and said, âYou stay on your side or Iâll tear your arms off!â?
Have you heard your children whine:
âHeâs touching me!â
âMake him stop looking at me!â
âSheâs teasing me!â
âStop it. I donât like it! Iâm dobbing on you.â
My favourite sibling complaint was shared by a tired, patient dad in a conference I attended years ago. One of his children complained to their mum:
âMum, heâs breathing my air!â
Kids fight. They drive one another mad. They get in each otherâs way.
Parents ask me how to stop it and why itâs happening. My response:
How old were you when you stopped fighting with your siblings?
Many adults confess that they still experience conflict with their siblings even though theyâre in their 30âs or 40âs and live 1000kms apart. Christmas dinners are a perfect example.
I love what P. J. OâRourke said:
âAnybody can have one kid â but going from one kid to two is like going from owning a dog to running a zoo.â
With all of this as a backdrop, we need to acknowledge that preventing sibling conflict is almost impossible, but we can do a handful of things to reduce how often it occurs, and how bad it gets. No, you donât need to buy one of everything for each child. Sharing is part of being in a family. Instead, try these tipsâ¦
10 Tips to Reduce Sibling Conflict
- Give individual attention to all of your children.
It will never be quite equal. But when someone needs it, be there for them. (Remember, girls like to be face to face, boys prefer side by side)
- Distract or Unite.
When everyone needs attention and individual triage isnât possible, either use distraction or do something together.
- Be aware of triggers.
Watch for triggers (Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness) and intervene early. If the children are tired and hungry, keep them separated if you can!
- Be a present parent.
Make sure the big ones donât become parents to the little ones. âYouâre not the boss of me!â means that someone may be over-exerting their authority and parents need to be more present.
- Be clear on your limits.
âWe are respectful. We speak nicely.â
- Avoid smacking.
This models aggression and violence to our children. Theyâre more likely to repeat it.
- Teach children to soothe themselves.
Staring at the sky, breathing, counting back from 1000 in 3âsâ¦ dig a hole in the sandpit to bury your anger, draw your frustration, listen to music. Each of these ideas can help a child relax.
- If you can name it you can tame it.
If you sense a child is becoming frustrated, name it. This will help them know their emotions are normal and can be dealt with positively.
- Teach and model empathy.
Demonstrate your concern for their needs and interests, and are willing to see things through their eyes. Help your kids do the same for each other.
- The truth is – it’s hard.
Remember that itâs tough being a sibling, especially when youâre young. Older siblings often ridicule and torment younger siblings. This is painful for anyone.
Every parent with more than one child â in fact, every human in a relationship â will experience some form of conflict, particularly with those closest to us. Conflict is not always bad. It allows us to re-examine habits and priorities, and gives us the possibility of progress. But it can be a problem if we donât use it to improve.
When children fight with one another, stay calm, be clear, show empathy. Theyâre acting up because of the way that they feel. Help them feel better, and theyâll act better.
Then, invite them to think about how their behaviour is impacting on others. As they see how what they did affected others, you can help them to identify better ways to act towards one another, and slowly move towards making family life happier for everyone.
Article supplied with thanks to Happy Families.
About the Author: A sought after public speaker and author, and former radio broadcaster, Justin has a psychology degree from the University of Queensland and a PhD in psychology from the University of Wollongong.