If you have 2 or more children, I’m betting you have had to break up arguments, screaming matches or even physical fights between them at one time or another. It happens to most parents! Brothers and sisters not getting along, aka sibling rivalry, is an issue many families deal with daily, and it can be very stressful!
Parents often ask me if there is anything they can do to teach/help their children get along with one another. Yes there is…
1. Help them to communicate
Siblings will often argue, which can result in screaming or physical aggression. They both want their own way and rarely listen to their sibling’s wants or needs. Instead of breaking them up and separating them, help them to communicate and compromise. Help them to take turns listening to each other and speak calmly to one another. This will help them to problem solve and work out their issues rather than being shut down and separated. They will initially need you to guide and prompt their communication.
2. Encourage them to work together and help each other
Encourage them to do things together and help each other to complete a task. For example, wash the car together, set the table together, tidy their rooms together (rather than tidy their own rooms which can often become a competition of whose room is tidiest/ who was the quickest). And praise them for working together!
3. Encourage them to play/ do things together
This can be hard at times, particularly if siblings are different genders and/or big age difference so try to suggest activities they will both enjoy such as boardgames, planting/gardening, playing with blocks/Lego, bubbles, ballgames, books (they may enjoy the oldest siblings reading a story to younger siblings), drawing pictures together or of each other, crafts, painting, chalk drawing outside, and when it is time for a snack or lunch, encourage them to make it together, helping each other (they may make a snack for you too).
4. Allow them to participate in separate activities
Praise them for their individuality and own abilities. Allow them to participate in separate activities eg. ballet, soccer, netball, music lessons, etc, and ensure they demonstrate their support for one another, by attending each other’s games, concerts, presentations, etc.
5. Celebrate their individuality and abilities without comparing
At times, it is tempting to say things such as “why can’t you listen to me like your brother does?”, “if your sister can do it, why can’t you?” or “your brother never did this at his age”. Try to refrain from saying such things as this will not motivate them. Instead it will lead to them feeling as though they must compete for your praise, attention and approval and may believe that you prefer one child over another. Instead praise them for their own achievements, abilities and good behavior.
6. Reward them for being kind to each other.
If you notice they are being kind to one another, supporting each other, playing well together or helping each other, let them know you have noticed and how it makes you feel. Praise them! Ask them how it has made them feel. Perhaps use a reward system for kindness, sharing and cooperation. A reward chart/jar they can only fill by working together. Allow them to decide on the reward that will be for both/all of them eg. A family outing to the zoo/park/roller skating etc, a new boardgame or sport equipment they can play together.
If you are still concerned about your children’s sibling rivalry or family relationships, seek help from a professional such as a school counsellor, doctor or child/family psychologist, to assist you and your child to develop a plan and therapy goals to ensure the best outcome for your child and your family.
Subscribe to our newsletter Attuned Life
Would you be interested in receiving our occasional newsletter, event information and other useful tips via e-mail?