Although arguments between siblings are a normal part of childhood development, there are things parents can do to foster strong sibling relationships.
My daughter loved my son from the moment she met him at the hospital. The sun revolved around him: she cared for him, helped watch over him, and loved being his sister.
Then, he started crawling, walking, and talking. And before I knew it, my sweet children started fighting. All. The. Time.
I grew up with a sister, so I understood that some sibling fighting IS normal. Sibling relationships and arguments allow kids to work on conflicts at home and develop social interaction skills in a safe environment.
Even though I knew that, it didn’t make listening to my children fight any easier. I wanted my kids to be best friends, so I began to look for advice on how to foster strong sibling relationships and how to discourage sibling fighting. The tips I found were helpful, and we started to implement them immediately.
Now, we use these tips for all four of our children!
1. Talk About How Each Child is Feeling in Front of the Other
Discussing how the child is feeling in front of the other sibling creates positive interaction, and encourages children to feel empathy towards their siblings.
“Tony, I can tell that it makes you sad when John doesn’t want to play Legos with you.”
“John, it makes you mad when Tony wrecks your Lego creations.”
2. Acknowledge and Praise Positive Actions
When you notice your child helping and interacting positively with their siblings, be sure to acknowledge their action! Kids respond well to positive praise, and it helps to show them the behavior that you want from them.
“Sarah, thank you so much for pouring your sister a drink. That was so kind of you!”
“Jake, you shared your trains so well with your brother this evening.”
Encourage the other sibling to thank them as well. Remember that we must model manners as well. You might not think that you need to thank your child when he does something for you, but you are modeling appropriate behavior as well!
3. Give Kids Their Space
We all need time away from people. Sometimes, your child might need their space and not want to spend time with their siblings. That’s okay! Give your child space where they can escape their siblings and spend time by themselves. That might be a separate bedroom or bunk bed!
Kids also need a space where they can go after a fight with their siblings. Everyone needs to cool down before continuing with the day!
4. Establish House Rules and Appropriate Limits
Families need house rules and appropriate limits for everyone. Set house rules and limits from the start. It helps younger kids understand what you expect from them. Make sure the rules apply to everyone!
5. Create a Rotating System for Privileges
Any parent with two or more kids understands the arguments that can come when a child thinks you aren’t “fair.” Privileges, such as time on a game system or tablet, should be on a rotating system. Take the guesswork out of who is first! Kids love predictability.