Part of my job is to help families work together and empower one another while respecting one another’s boundaries. More than a few times I’ve been contacted by an exasperated parent asking for help on how to help their children get along with their siblings. Having grown up in a big family I know that siblings are your first step into the world of boundaries, negotiations, social cues, and learning how to living with others who you love one minute and want to strangle the next! So here are just a few of my picks that I give to parents to help ease sibling rivalry and get a little peace!
With all conflict, there needs to be a standard (family rules) established for the family and consequences if that is not respected. For some families, it is no yelling, no name calling, or no hitting. Decide what is the standard (or set of expectations) as a family, write it out, and post it for everyone to see daily. As a family decides what will happen if someone “breaks” one of the rules. Some consequences families typically use are
• Time Out
• Sensory Break/Quiet Area
• “Job Jar”; chores are written on slips of paper in a jar. When someone is having a hard time following the family plan they can grab a chore and complete it. This helps to get them away from what is triggering them, redirects them to complete a task, feel accomplished, and be able to rejoin the discussion with a calmer head.
• “Money Jars”; Everyone, even Mom & Dad, have a jar with money in it. This can be their allowance, etc. When someone breaks a family rule then a designated amount of money will be taken from their jar and put into Mom & Dad’s jar. However, catching them doing something positive and money can be added to their jar. One way to make it more motivating is by writing/having a picture of what they are saving their money for.
• Go outside; Sometimes having them go onto the trampoline, out for a run or bike ride, or spending time doing something outside will help redirect them. If they seem to be gravitating towards one another and keep fighting to ask them to find activities to do alone until they can work together.
Stay calm and walk away.
There are situations where you will not need to intervene, though it may feel like it would be easier to resolve the problem quicker if you did. Sometimes leaving your little ones who are fighting alone (go into another room, look at a magazine, look busy, etc) and do not interact with their fighting (unless someone is in imminent danger). Most children already know how to resolve their problems and what is expected of them, but they may rely on you solving the issue that they can do on their own.
Validate their feelings and encourage them to tell each other how their feeling.
This can seem a bit touchy-feely, but children really do need guidance on learning emotions and feelings and how to notice when their bodies are getting triggered. By learning common emotions they will be able to better find a coping strategy that works for them. This is something we all need out in the world as we get older! If your noticing a lot of “rough” play check in to see if they need some extra sensory input. Sometimes bouncing in the trampoline, pillow fights, kinetic sand, Thera- Putty, or even deep pressure squeezes and bear hugs will help when they are seeking that sensory input. What may look like really rough play may just be their solution to sensory seeking so give them opportunities to get the input they need before it gets to a point where your child feels like they aren’t in control of their bodies anymore.
By making your expectations short, clear, and age appropriate you helping them to understand that there are rules that must be followed in order to keep everyone safe and happy. You are also helping to make these boundaries easy for the whole family to understand and follow, and it will help your child with their peers as well as their siblings. How does your family handle conflict? Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn and tell me how you keep the harmony in your family!