Helping siblings get along

A certain amount of arguing and fighting between brothers and sisters is normal; however there are things parents can do to help their children learn to get along.

Sibling rivalry can be a major source of stress for families. Most parents want their children to be good friends and look out for each other. Parents may worry that arguing is a sign of unhealthy relationships. In Dr. Carolyn Webster-Stratton’s book “The Incredible Years: A Trouble Shooting Guide for Parents of Children Ages 2-8”, she states that a certain amount of arguing and fighting between brothers and sisters is normal, however there are things parents can do to help their children learn to get along.

One source of sibling rivalry is resentment. Children can feel resentment toward their siblings, especially when they think their parents prefer one child over another. Fair does not always mean equal. It is important to treat each child as unique and special and avoid favoritism. Find some time to spend with each child alone doing something they like.

Everyone, even children, needs their own space. Older children need space to hang out with friends, and younger children need space to spread out and play with toys. Teach children to respect each other’s space. We also all need to have things that are special only to us, so teach children not to touch things that do not belong to them, even their brother’s or sister’s stuff.

Make teaching problem solving skills a normal part of your parenting. This includes having them:

  1. Figure out what the problem is.
  2. Come up with some solutions.
  3. Think about consequences to those solutions.
  4. Decide what solution they think will work best.

Hold weekly family meetings to discuss any problems and get input from all the children, then talk about solutions together. When brothers and sisters fight, try ignoring a minor argument and encourage them to settle it themselves. Impose a time out for both children if there are physical fights. Don’t get into who started it; both children need to take responsibility for their behavior.

Even though it can be a source of stress, sibling rivalry can be a platform for children to learn about building healthy relationships. Parents can help by accepting that their children are not always going to get along, and using this time to teach valuable life skills.

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