By Randy L Cale, PhD
One of the most persistent struggles parents encounter is the battles that occur between siblings. Many parents feel frustrated because their efforts to nurture a cooperative environment in the home are thwarted by constant bickering and fighting among siblings. Sibling rivalry is enough to get you pulling out your hair! Many of us feel we didn’t sign up for this…when sibling battles rage out of control.
Here are the essential tips that will allow you to establish sanity in your home….whether there are two or ten kids driving you crazy with sibling rivalry and sibling battles. Please note that these proven solutions run contrary to many popular approaches that are failing parents and children. I encourage you to be open, and consider testing these over the next 30 days.
- It isn’t fair.
Trying to make things fair is an endless battle, and leads to increasing frustration and constant negotiation with your children. No matter how hard you work to make it ‘fair’ they will often see you as NOT being fair.
Solution: Stop talking about ‘playing fair’ and stop trying to make things fair. Stop trying to figure out what’s really fair. Stop negotiating around issues of fairness, and trying to sort out what is fair for one versus the other.
In reality, we can all find many examples where life is not fair. I am not suggesting that we ignore unfairness; it’s simply much more complicated to sort out what’s fair or unfair between siblings. From your children’s perspective, it will not behoove them to beat the “it’s not fair” drum. Ultimately, this ‘victim’ stance is one that just grows over time, and consumes their whole life view for many children.
I encourage you to explain to the kids that life is often not fair, and that you will do your best to make your home environment healthy and fair, but you will not negotiate or discuss this topic any more.
- If Mom or Dad gets involved, you both suffer the consequences.
Regardless of the situation, avoid trying to figure out who did what. This will only drive you into insanity as the kids get older.
Instead, if you are going to step into a sibling issue, do so with authority and a clear consequence.
Make sure that the consequence is felt equally by both siblings. No discussion. Just the consequence. On a practical level, take away the video game if they are going to fight over it. Remove the toy if they can’t share.
And if it’s really ugly between them, don’t try to figure out who started it…send both to time out.
Your goal here is to reflect more of ‘reality’ for your kids. In real life, very seldom will someone really try to figure out who started “it.” Instead, it’s likely that they will both suffer the consequences. More importantly, this teaches everyone to take responsibility for how you play, when you walk away and how you problem solve with your sibling. These are critical life skills. You will be amazed at what a powerful learning process this is for your kids.
- Nurture a sense of shared cooperation.
Create an environment where the children understand that their fate is shared through a cooperative effort. Expand their awareness of how their future together will be enlarged if they cooperate.
In addition, purchase toys, and engage the children in sports that require mutual participation. If it requires two to play tennis, then it becomes mutually beneficial to learn how to support each other remaining on the tennis court.
- Cultivate your interest when children are cooperating. Make certain that you notice when there is cooperation. Give them a smile or a wink. Make sure that you are giving energy to times when the kids are actually getting along. We usually do this the other way around, and devote most of our energy to the problem moments. The secret to nurturing a cooperative home where kids get along well is to make sure that cooperation gets more of your energy than anything else.
If you stick to these fundamentals, I think that will discover that, after some initial struggles, your children learn to get along better. If it feels as if the sibling conflicts in your home are more severe, and you need more detail and precision, you may want consider my new “Sibling Solution Guide” found at www.SiblingsWithoutRivalry.com