Helping Same Sex Siblings Get Along

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sibling rivalry
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Sibling fighting is one of the biggest complaints of parents and caregivers alike. Siblings, especially same sex ones, seem to know how to push each other buttons. Here are some tips to help your kids stop fighting.

Set clear boundaries. Often, parents send the message that sibling fighting is a normal part of the relationship, so it’s also an acceptable part of the relationship. It’s up to you to let your children know that although disagreeing is a part of every relationship, you expect them to take action to solve those disagreements. Your expectations will set the stage for how siblings treat each other and how they work together to solve their conflicts.

Teach problem solving skills from a very young age. Kids are naturally problem solvers because they’re naturally creative thinkers. By giving your children a framework for problem solving and teaching them real world skills, you can help them learn to solve their own conflicts with siblings. Teach them how to identify and name their own feelings so they have the vocabulary needed when talking about how they feel and what they want. Encourage them to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective and imagine how the other person thinks and feels. Model brainstorming several solutions for a problem and show them that if one doesn’t work, you have the option of moving onto another solution until you do find one that works. These problem solving skills require a lot of patience and practice, but they will serve your children in every relationship they’re in.

Let your kids solve their own problems. It’s natural to want to jump in and solve the sibling squabbling yourself. Chances are you know exactly what needs to be done and it would be quicker and easier for you to do it than to wait for your kids to figure it out themselves. However, when you intervene, you’re not giving your children the chance to practice the problem solving skills you’ve been teaching them. You’re also sending the message that they’re not responsible for their problems. Instead, step back and let them find a solution on their own. They probably won’t get it right on the first try, and that’s OK. The goal is to give them the space to learn how to get along by themselves.

Don’t play favorites. In many situations, one sibling often seems like the instigator. He’s the one who teases, who hits, who takes things without permission and who does other things that drive his brother crazy. It’s easy to fall into the trap of siding with the “victim’ sibling and ganging up against the instigator. However, that will only increase the tension between the siblings and will often cause anger and resentment to build up. The result, of course, is more problems between the brothers. Remember, there are always two sides to every story. Give both children the benefit of the doubt and focus your attention on solving the issue and moving forward, not on who’s to blame.

Don’t get stuck on the ideal of fair. Of course, you should try to be as fair as possible with your children. But the reality is that life isn’t always fair. When you’re cutting up the cake, one piece may be bigger than another. Because your schedule is different from day to day, your five-year-old’s play date may have to end 30 minutes earlier than your seven-year-old’s play date. If you allow yourself to get caught up in the idea that you’re responsible for balancing out those things somehow, you will be caught in a never ending cycle of trying to make things up to your children. It will drive you nuts and it will give your children unrealistic expectations as to how things really work. Instead, take the stand that sometimes you get the bigger piece and sometimes you get the smaller piece. Let your child work through his feelings about the unfairness of it all without feeling like you have to fix it for him.

Stress the importance of the sibling relationship. From the child’s perspective, a sibling can seem more like a curse than a blessing, especially if the relationship is a difficult one. Of course, that changes with time and circumstances. Older kids learn that a brother or sister, even one they fight with often, holds a special place in their hearts. If you have siblings, model the type of relationship you want your children to have. Talk to them about the special role that siblings play in their life. Let them know that family, even when they drive you crazy, is irreplaceable.

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