How to Help Siblings Play More and Fight Less

sibling rivalry
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When you have more than one child, you naturally entertain fantasies of your little ones growing up to be the very best of friends. It can be distressing to realize that, as they grow older, arguments can become more common than peaceful playtime. While there’s only so much you can do as a parent to facilitate a strong and affectionate relationship between two people that may have diametrically opposed interests and ideas, there are ways you can help create a more peaceful environment for your brood.

Don’t Draw Comparisons

Expressing your disappointment or confusion regarding a child’s behavior by asking him why he can’t be more like his sister or pointing out that his brother never behaves in such a manner may not seem like a catalyst for sibling skirmishes, but it absolutely is. When one child feels as if he’s constantly being compared to a sibling and is always coming up short, it’s not you that will bear the brunt of his anger. The sibling that he feels like he’s competing with is likely to be seen as competition not only for your love and affection, but also for your acceptance. Regardless of how much you may genuinely want to know why he acts the way he does, avoid framing the question as a comparison to another sibling.

Avoid Situations Conducive to Battle

Every parent knows that a tired, hungry or anxious child is usually a cranky child. When you put two cranky kids in close quarters, it’s just not reasonable to expect good behavior. Rather than placing your children in the pressure cooker that is close proximity to one another when everyone is feeling irritable, look for ways to stop conflict before it starts. Keep hungry or sleepy kids away from one another, don’t insist that they play together and make every effort to meet their physical needs as soon as possible.

Allow Plenty of Personal Space

No matter how much you want your children to spend all of their time together in blissful play, it’s important to be realistic. Children, just like adults, will need a measure of personal space from time to time. This especially holds true for older siblings that are continually followed around by adoring brothers and sisters. Make sure that you give each child plenty of time to play on their own; when they’re not being forced to play together, you may find that they voluntarily seek one another out.

Talk About Boundaries and Privacy

Older kids can feel as if they have no time to themselves, no privacy and that they’re always competing with younger kids for parental attention. Making absolutely sure that your younger children have a clear understanding about boundaries and privacy can help stave off some arguments and facilitate a better relationship between your children. On the same token, it’s important for older kids to understand that their younger siblings require space from time to time, and that taunting and teasing only leads to more trouble.

Only Get Involved When It’s Necessary

It’s tempting to intervene in an argument just to get some peace in your house, but doing so too soon will not only force you to choose sides in a dispute, it will also rob your children of an opportunity to work on their own conflict management skills. Your kids need to know how to handle conflict on their own, how to diffuse an argument and how to communicate effectively. When you jump in at the first sign of trouble to mete out justice, they never get the chance to put those skills into practice.

Give Siblings Collaborative Tasks

Asking two warring siblings to work together on a project may be the last thing you want to do, but it can help them sort out their differences. When your kids have a common goal, they’re forced to look past their disparities and find a way to overcome them. Not only will you be helping them develop their own set of valuable social skills, but you’ll also be creating an environment where they learn to set aside a disagreement in order to affect positive change. Before you dole out punishments, consider putting your kids to work together for a while.

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