The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Keeping Siblings Hugging not Hating

Monday, April 2, 2012

Keeping Siblings Hugging not Hating

As an only child, I have little experience with sibling rivalry.  However, when I became a mom, I got plenty of OJT with three girls within three years of age.  My child development books told me that sibling rivalry is normal and even healthy, teaching children how to argue their point as they got older.  This is probably very true, because I am a horrible arguer and seldom win an argument, backing down every time.  Yes, I'm a wuss.  But I do know it's important to establish close ties with your siblings as they are the closest relatives you will ever have, next to Mom and Dad.  My friends at www.babysitters.net have posted ways to help siblings appreciate each other more. Most of their advice is just common sense, but sometimes parents don't consider common sense in the discipline equation!

Sibling rivalry has been going on since the dawn of time; everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. That story didn’t end well, so parents do their best to discourage animosity among their children. Although it’s perfectly natural for siblings to have disagreements, you want to keep them to a minimum. This is important not only for their development, but for the parents own peace of mind. Here are ten ways to keep siblings hugging more and hating less. 
  1. Start early – Sibling rivalry usually starts as soon as a new brother or sister is born. The older sibling is no longer the sole recipient of their parent’s affection and feels neglected. It’s important at this crucial time to give as much time and attention to your first born as possible and help the children establish a affectionate relationship with each other.
  2. Be fair – Be careful not to play favorites. This can be more difficult than you think, especially if one child is usually the instigator of conflict. Problems will only escalate if the kids don’t think you’re being fair.
  3. Set rules – It’s important to establish the ground rules and communicate them to you children. They need to know that you expect them to get along and to love each other no matter what. Set the rules and be sure to enforce them consistently.
  4. Common activities – Find common activities that both siblings can do together. By getting them to work with each other to accomplish the same goal, you’ll encourage sibling camaraderie instead of rivalry.
  5. Work it out – Sometime you need to step back and let the kids work it out themselves. This is a good idea for minor conflicts and gives them a chance to develop their negotiating skills.
  6. Discourage competition – Try to avoid situations where siblings are competing against each other. Don’t compare their report cards or athletic abilities to each other, but praise each of them for their individual accomplishments. Also encourage them to root for each other.
  7. Encourage affection – Lead by example and let your children know it’s great to show each other affection. Encourage them to give each other hugs and praise them when they’re getting along.
  8. Time apart – Sometimes siblings need a little time apart to enhance their appreciation of each other. Maybe some time alone in separate rooms will be all it takes or perhaps going away to separate summer camps. They might be happy enough to see each other again that they hug spontaneously.
  9. Appreciate their differences – No two children are alike; even identical twins each have their own separate personalities. Be sure to teach your kids to appreciate each others differences. By supporting the other’s strengths and helping to overcome their weaknesses, siblings can learn to be a team instead of rivals.
  10. Patience – Sibling rivalry tends to come and go in stages. Depending on their age difference and other factors, kids will fight like cats and dogs for awhile and then be best buddies as they grow older. Sometimes it just takes some patience.
No matter what you do, some conflict is inevitable, but you don’t want it to get out of hand. Siblings don’t really hate each other. They’re just struggling to establish their own identity and place in the family. Hopefully your kids will eventually learn that they can count on each other for support and friendship. There are nothing like brothers and sisters to be in each others corner when times are tough. With a little refereeing from their parents, siblings will keep doing more hugging than hating as they grow to be adults.

And I'll add my own Number 11: Discourage play fighitng like wrestling.  Yes, it may be playing, but it also encourages dominance by one of the siblings, usually the older one. 

Happy Parenting!

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