Siblings are there for each other. They should have each other’s back at all times. Promoting good sibling relationships is beneficial for you as a parent because they will encourage one another on the right thing to do even in your absence.
While sibling conflict feels exhausting at the moment, it can help children in the long run. When children work through uncomfortable feelings and difficult problems with their siblings, they learn how to manage emotions and conflict out in the world. When parents help kids with these skills and support each child equally, children have a training ground to cope with the ups and downs of childhood.
There are many benefits of positive sibling relationships, including support, friendship, and connection.
Here are a few ways you can help your little ones reap the benefits of their sibling relationships and turn arguments into lifelong lessons:
- Encourage siblings to nurture one another
When one sibling is hurt, encourage another to check on her. When one needs help with a task, encourage the other to jump in and get the job done. When they argue over something, help them verbalize their feelings using “I feel” statements so they can listen to and empathize with one another.
2. Create sibling special time
Figure out a block of time each week when the kids can play without interruption or instruction. Let them take over the play area and make a mess. Encourage them to merge their ideas and create something new together. Then step back and let them figure it out.
3. Promote family activities that put your children in charge of the fun
Siblings compete with one another at times. It happens. A great way to move away from competition within the family is to create fun family activities. Obstacle courses and scavenger hunts are always popular options, but be sure to put your children in charge. When kids work together to formulate a list for a walking scavenger hunt, for example, they learn that teaming up and listening to one another’s ideas results in great fun for the whole family.
4. Get siblings in on the nighttime routine
Children love their nighttime routines, and often the youngest children have the most items on their evening wish lists. Encouraging siblings to read one story together, sing each other a song, or give hugs and high-fives before bed creates a special bond before they drift off to sleep. It also teaches them that they can turn to one another for support if they ever feel unsettled at night.
5. Cheer each other on
Teach your children to cheer each other on, offer to help each other, ask each other for help, and recognize each other’s strengths. When siblings learn from an early age that they aren’t in competition with each other and that they have the power to help each other thrive, their relationship thrives.
6. Do Not Compare Your Kids
First and foremost, try not to say things like, “Why can’t you listen as well as your brother does?” or “Your sister doesn’t talk back to me.” Comparing your children to each other is a surefire way to stoke the fires of sibling rivalry and build resentment.
7. Figure Out What’s Behind Sibling Conflicts
Do your children tend to squabble when one is trying to get the other’s attention? Are they competing for your time and attention? Do they fight more when they are tired or bored?
Once you see a pattern that might explain this behavior, try to address those issues to minimize sibling squabbles. For instance, you can try spending one-on-one time with each child or try to help your child find better, non-antagonizing ways to get a sibling’s attention.
8. Teach Siblings to Appreciate Each Other’s Differences
When children have very different interests and temperaments, conflicts can naturally occur. The important thing is to teach them how to respect those differences, and how to keep an eye on what’s really important: Loving each other. If one child wants to choose a family activity that incorporates a lot of action while another child wants to do something quiet and low-key, you could set up a system where they can work together to plan how to take turns or find other common interests that can be fun for both siblings.
9. Have Them Team Up for Chores
You can have children take on chores that are best for their age and abilities, such as sweeping or helping prepare dinner and have them race against the grownups in the house to see who gets their chores done faster.
10. Build Their Listening Skills
The ability to really listen to what someone is saying is an important skill for children to develop and one that helps them learn to empathize with others and see things from someone else’s point of view. Make it a point to have siblings listen and try really hard to understand each other’s opinions and thoughts.
11. Teach the Importance of Respect
Listening is one way to show respect for each other, and respect is essential to building good relationships, whether it’s between friends, partners, or siblings. Remind children that they should treat others the way they want to be treated, with kindness and concern for their feelings.
Respect can include talking to each other using a nice or at least not unpleasant tone of voice, even when disagreeing; not putting down a sibling’s opinions; and being mindful of someone else’s space and belongings (not going into a sibling’s room without permission or touching their things, for instance).
12. Show Them How to Respectfully Disagree
People who love each other can disagree sometimes — that’s just a fact of life. But it’s how we handle those disagreements that matter. Teach your children that they may not always see eye to eye on things, but that they must not call each other names.
13. Emphasize Family Bonding
Explain to your children and remind them periodically that family, and especially siblings, can be the kind of unshakable love and support that cannot easily be matched.
Remind your children that while they may often prefer the company of friends over a brother or sister now, they will become more important to each other as they grow up.
While they may not completely understand the importance of sibling relationships yet, this is a message that is worth repeating and one that they will eventually grow to realize as they get older.
14. Make Time for Fun
Families who have fun together will be less likely to have conflict. Try to choose games and activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family, such as riding bicycles or watching a great new movie for children.
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