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Seven Ways To Solve Sibling Rivalry

Posted by Patience on August 4, 2009 at 7:38 AM in Parenting tipsRaising BoysRaising Girls
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We are at that point in the summer where everyone has been together nonstop and we are going a little nutty. Everything feels annoying from everyone to everyone. Throw a little heat in the mix and it's pretty much a recipe for miserable living. This is the moment for intervention, or maybe not, whatever your personal solution might be to one of the biggest parenting struggles, sibling rivalry.

It's been pretty bad over here so I came up with a few strategies. Don't know if they will work for you but maybe it's worth a shot?

1. Give Them Something To Do. Many a conflict start out from being bored. Bothering your sister is something to do when you have run out of all other ideas. Sometimes a project can bring them back together, other times doing the same project in separate spaces is called for. Pull out small art kits and other special things might be in order.

2. Stop And Spend Time Together. The last thing I want to do is spend time with fighting children but it is often the very thing most needed. I find when I disengage and enter their world for just awhile it diffuses the angst floating around. Reading a book to them in bed, watching a movie together, playing a game of tag makes them forget they can't stand each other for a bit.

3. Do An Intervention Dance. Sometimes, doing very little or nothing at all is the answer. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish wrote the best book on sibling relationships called Siblings Without Rivalry. They talk about a strategy of how to help kids navigate their own conflicts by "stepping in so you can step out". Helping kids identify their feelings in the moment (stepping in) and then allowing kids to work out (stepping out) how they are going to deal with them.

There are times when children can navigate their own conflict but it might take longer than we prefer, other times they need us to set up the navigation just a bit. I find it helps to have the kids face each other at eye level, allow each other to say what is bothering them and then ask each child if they have any ideas for solutions. After a few times, kids can actually do this themselves. If no one is ready or willing, I let them go to their own spaces until they we can come together for another try. It can be a bit of a dance figuring out which is needed when.

4. Get Some Playdate Parties Going. Everyone needs a little time away once in awhile. Now is the time to call your best friend and ask to trade various kids for the day. Absence makes the heart grow fonder? fingers crossed.

5. Forget Fair. "It's not fair!" Have you heard this? Can I get an amen from the middle child in the house? Switch verbage to needs. Things are not always fair and never will be but we can do our best to meet each others needs. When we are deep into the "mine isn't as big, she got more, etc..", the need question helps loads. "Is there something you are worried about or need?" More about this in the book mentioned above.

6. Put Everyone In Time Out. Start with yourself. When things are bad and you are spent from screeching and yelling, hide for awhile. I used to lock myself in the bathroom for 10 minutes (making sure all was safe first if you have littles) or run errands when my husband got home at night. Even being in the car by myself in silence felt like a luxury. If I could re-group, I could help the kids too.

When we were kids, my mom banished us to our rooms to "work it out". We hated it and I don't know if it always worked but somewhere in that time we decided to gang up against her. We came out annoyed with her but somehow fine with each other.

7. Start An Acts of Kindness List. See how documenting kindness can change the vibe in your family.

Got any other good tips for sibling relationships? Please, please share them. This is definitely a topic where two heads are better than one.


Manic Mommy writes...

Oh, did this come at the perfect time! "It's not fair!" is a staple in our house right now. Keeping them busy is key.

Wayne writes...

When will my PBS station replay the Love & Logic Sibling Rivalry video? I keep looking for it and have requested that they show it again. If anyone out there knows where to get a copy of this valuable resource, I'd love to see it. We use many Love & Logic techniques in our house and have heard lots of good things about this video.

Patricia writes...

Hi there,
I totally understand the problem of boredom because I now live with my four nephews-sons of my only sister-which range from now a 17 to 10 year old. Whenever I mention this to someone they are shocked. hehe

Ever since I was "forced" to live w/sis, I did not realize how it was going to be demanding and that I had to go through an adjustment phase-which is never ending-! But I am surviving with the guidance of my sister. But, still
I have my own ways of handling children
due to the fact of being a 16 year veteran in the elementary field and being a substitute for all grades.

My youngest nephew, Isaac, must deal with
being bored because he is the most adventurous of the four. He already knows how to skateboard better and better, but he is still learning. I for see him being the athlete of the family, but he needs guidance still.

The two oldest find satisfaction with their Nintendo games and YouTube on the pc or laptop, but are not athletic. Meanwhile, the third oldest, Jacob, loves to cook, but doesn't clean up his mess! hehe He is pre-diabetic like me; therefore, we have something in common.

I too must allow them to be themselves, but I indirectly want to provide some discipline w/o my sister around since she is a teacher for alternative students in a High School setting which is quite demanding, too.

Therefore, I have to not isolate myself in my bedroom and deal with them on a daily basis through understanding and compassion, but with semi-strict restrictions so not to "tip the boat"
because the boys won't tolerate it from their Aunt Patsy.:)

Dawn writes...

Whenever I hear the words, "It's not fair!", my simple response with its own explanation is "Fair is not always equal...." Then, I proceed to explain why it's fair, but not necessarily equal. It most often helps. Just a thought to share.

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