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Posted on: October 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm
Last updated: October 31, 2018 at 9:26 am

Nothing feels more crushing than seeing family fight… What’s worse is when parents see their own children at each other’s throats – and over what!? Whose turn it is to wash dishes, who got the bigger bowl of ice cream for dessert, how long the other person has been using the family iPad, how the older sibling keeps kicking the younger sibling underneath the table, how the younger sibling always seems to get out of trouble with their crocodile tears… You can probably insert your own personal experience in there, too.

It’s unfortunate when you see two tiny bundles of joy, humans that you brought into this world, tearing each other down instead of building each other up. Verlonda Jackson, a mother and author, expressed it best in an Instagram post from November 13, 2017.

“I consider myself to be a fairly tolerant parent. I don’t mind spoiling. If my kids don’t want veggies on their plate at dinner, I don’t force them to eat it. And I don’t limit their television viewing all that much as long as they read just as many books,” Jackson writes. [1] “There are a handful of things, however, that can tip me over the edge into that dangerous place of rage, sadness, and self-doubt. Not listening is a big one. Whining is another. But nothing frustrates me more than when my kids fight with each other.”

Every Parent’s Silver Lining

If you’re a parent, you know how frustrating seeing your children fight can be. It can make you feel like an inadequate mother or father, like you have no control of your family, or like having a breakdown that makes you question why or how you ever got into the parenting business. But, if you’re paying attention, there are glimpses of love that remind you everything is all right. You do get those “4:04pm” moments, as Jackson writes:

“There are days when it seems like the vast majority of [my kids’] interactions are acrimonious, hostile, and exasperating. But every afternoon at 4:04pm when my son gets off the school bus from kindergarten, this happens…” [Watch the heartwarming video below!]

“As a parent, that’s the best I can hope for. That my babies will fight and forgive. That they will practice what it means to be a human with each other. That they will learn when to stand their ground and when to let something go. That they will learn to be siblings, maybe even favorites.” [1]

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7 Tips to Help Siblings Get Along and Build a Stronger Sibling Bond

That’s’ the goal, isn’t it? To foster and nurture a family that values family, through all the ups and downs? But that is always easier said than done, so we’ve put together a list of tips that will hopefully help your kids get along. [2,3]

1) Don’t Place Blame

Pick apart any conflict between two kids and you’ll find that they both played some role in the problem escalating. Sure, someone “started” it but there are many ways problems can start without any words being said or hands being thrown. Instead of pointing the finger and telling them they were wrong, try and encourage kids to recognize and acknowledge how and where they were at fault, and resolve the conflict in a peaceful way.

2) Love What They Love

The moment you notice your children diving headfirst into an activity together (upon your suggestion or not), encourage more of it. Recognize it, make time for it, don’t interrupt it, and help your kids see that what they’re doing and the fun they’re having is healthy. If they’re having an off day and one wants to play astronaut while the other wants to play baseball, who’s to say astronauts can play catch with baseball-sized meteors!? Even when it seems like a conflict is about to start, seek out the win-win scenarios.

3) Avoid Comparisons

Unhealthy comparisons are powerful enough to pit siblings against each other (and their parents) for a lifetime. It leads to feelings of inadequacy, pain, and insecurity. Of course, your children or grandchildren will have different strengths and weaknesses but that’s because they are, in fact, inherently different. A good rule of thumb is to praise publicly and critique privately. This will help each unique child become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses in a healthy way.

4) Encourage Them to Start a “Sibling Team”

This doesn’t involve sitting the kids down and trying to explain the idea of a “sibling team.” What you want to do is take advantage of moments throughout the day where the two (or more) kids can play and work together. If they want to draw, give them a large sheet of paper instead of two smaller ones. If they want to play a sport like soccer, give them one ball instead of two. If it’s time to do dishes, instead of assigning days (because we know somehow everyone loses track of who did what when), suggest one washes and rinses while the other dries and puts them away. This approach will help them develop both independence and teamwork skills.

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5) Listen to Your Children

As children, youth and even young adults, we all thought we had everything figured out early on in life. If you’re reading this, you know darn well that wasn’t the case (and most likely still isn’t). And even though you probably have lifetimes of more experience than your children, it’s easy to forget what it was like being a child. Speaking right away is not always the best route. Sometimes, using the exact “listening ears” you always tell your children to use comes in handy. Actively listening to your kids will not only help you resolve conflicts faster and healthier, but it will strengthen your bonds and allow them to see they can come to you with future problems, too.

6) Anticipate Problems

No matter how many parenting classes you take or parenting books you read, you will never perfect the art of parenting… and that is 100% okay. You will run into conflicts that are caused by your children and even you. Your own impatience, ego, insecurities, the list goes on. However, the important thing is that acknowledge that problems will arise and, when they do, you will need to be a voice of reason, a peacemaker, and an example of unconditional love for your children.

7) Love Them, Love Them, and Keep Loving Them

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While it’s important to spend family time together with your kids, do not forget to spend time with them individually. They are unique human beings after all – with different tastes, personalities, senses of humor, sensitivities, learning styles, and more. Over everything, however, remind your children that you are always there for them, that they can always come to you or your partner, and that you love them. Saying I love you is crucial, but sometimes it’s the unspoken actions that truly make a lasting impact on a child’s life.

Sibling rivalry is real, but that doesn’t mean it has to ruin familial relationships. We hope these parenting tips help you create healthy relationships between your children that grow into strong relationships that last a lifetime.

[1] Jackson, V. (n.d.). The Jackson 5 on Instagram: “I consider myself to be a fairly tolerant parent. I don’t mind spoiling. If my kids don’t want veggies on their plate at dinner I don’t…” Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/p/Bbc6aNXjcCi/

[2] Markham, L., Ph.D. (n.d.). 12 Tips to Build a Stronger Sibling Bond. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201706/12-tips-build-stronger-sibling-bond

[3] Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018, March 15). Help your children get along. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/sibling-rivalry/art-20046568

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