By having four children between the ages of 5 -13, I have definitely seen my share of sibling rivaling: hitting, rock throwing (needed stitches for that one), name calling, door slamming, breaking a favorite toy, ripping up someone’s homework. Yes, I have seen it all! I even get the “I wish I was an only child” quite often…sometimes on a daily basis. At times, all I want to do is lock them in a room together and not let them out until they have figured it out and promise to get along (okay, or just runaway with a glass of wine in hand). If only it were that easy!
Don’t get me wrong. I know my children love each other, just sometimes (more often than not), they have a hard time showing it! I also know that they genuinely WANT to get along….at least that is what they tell me. So, I do my best to referee and productively guide them through their conflicts.
Encourage playtime together: I really try to encourage activities that have them working as a team or together. Such as playing a board game, doing a puzzle, or outside playing road hockey. When conflict begins, I try my best to stay out of it and let them figure it out. If I see that all they are doing is pointing fingers and struggling to find a solution, I will then step in and offer my advice.
Alone time: Just as much as I encourage playing together, I also strongly believe in alone time. We all need our space, our time to be alone with our thoughts. When I see conflict that is just not working itself out, I call a time out and separate everyone to do their own things. This alone time normally restores the balance in our home again.
Acknowledge getting along: This is a BIG one! Who doesn’t like to be recognized for a job well done? I know I do, and children are just the same. I ALWAYS make a point of acknowledging good behavior & praising them when they are getting along. They love this, and I find they will work even harder at working in unity.
Family meetings: We sit down together every night as a family. During this time, we will talk about our day, giving each person time to say something that has made them happy or sad. I have found this really helps with getting some hurt feelings aired that otherwise may have stayed bottled up inside. If I find there is a lot of tension around the table, I will then have them say something nice about each other .
Something I have always told my children is “Friends come and go, but siblings are forever.” As a parent, I do my best to foster this relationship so it will transition naturally into their older years and remain as adults.
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