A few weeks back, my two sons argued everyday it seemed in the bath over space, on the lounge over books, in their beds over lighting, at the breakfast table over eating with food in their mouths and in my bedroom over my covers! This continued every morning and every night with me politely trying to manage each son and his intolerances until I snapped. Post flipping my lid I wondered just what was the recipe for very different little personalities to become friends when older.
Is there another way to respond to the mean comments that come from siblings and what research is out there about general things that can be done to foster sibling friendships? I get that all people are different but learning to get along is a skill that can be taught can’t it!
What did I find out?
Yes, this skill can be taught and according to Dr Christine Carter, it involves the following:
- Treat kids fairly – Give similar levels of praise, affection and discipline and ask your kids if they feel like they get enough hugs, quality time, boundaries, etcetera.
- Be an emotion coach – Tolerate the emotions that make you cringe such as frustration, anger and sadness. Teach your kids about emotions and how to express them. Teach kids that all emotions are valid and that each sibling (and family member) feels them.
- Provide your kids with positive opportunities to play. There must be something – bike riding, pillow bashing, bubble popping, bowling, to balance out the irritating times and reinforce happy times together.
- Role play conflict resolution – Toddlers and young children need support to solve conflict. Model this through your own relationships and when you do step into your children’s conflict, say things like “I have some ideas. If you need them let me know.”
- Think twice before intervening – Give your children time and space to solve their problems (if the problem is not out of hand) and let them practice as much as possible, at the park, in the playground, with the cousins and in your home. If you do step in, avoid charging in with this line: “JUST STOP IT!” (like I did this morning).
How is this useful?
More peace will come to your home as your siblings learn to be friends and ask for space when they need it.
More pleasure will come to your children’s other relationships as they learn to solve problems, say how they feel and play with others.