One of the most persistent struggles parents encounter is the battles that occur between siblings. And now, with siblings hanging out more than ever, many parents are reporting that life a home is an endless struggle to separate and referee battles. More than ever, 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, and now many homes are stretched to the limits!
First, let me cover a seemingly small, but yet very important subtlety. You cannot nurture what you want, but having only a relationship (in your mind) with what you don’t want. With sibling issues, for example, it’s hard to get sibling cooperation when your mind is consumed with sibling bickering and fighting. You end up at ‘war’ with what you don’t want in your home. This never works to create what you do want, which is sibling harmony. Make sense?
If so, then begin to read this by creating an intention to build and nurture sibling harmony over the weeks ahead. In doing so, you will be able to reduce the misery and craziness emerging in many homes over recent weeks.
The Essential Tips for Sibling Harmony
Here are the primary tips that will allow you to establish sanity in your home, whether there are two or ten kids are starting to drive you crazy.
1. It isn’t fair. So?
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. From your children’s perspective, it will not behoove them to beat the “it’s not fair” drum.
If you give too much energy to this constant complaint, your kids will learn to always make this excuse, and they will constantly see the world through these eyes. I encourage you to explain to the kids that life is not fair, that you will do your best, but you won’t negotiate or discuss this topic anymore.
2. If sibling craziness is consequence worthy, then both must suffer the consequences.
Regardless of the situation, don’t get into 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. Be a parent of action in these moments. Do not offer more and more verbal warnings or suggestions or threats. This will be your (miserable) destiny if you do.
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; instead, send both to time out. Or shut down the internet for both of them. Remember: Take action. Avoid more words.
3. 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. Give chores that require both to participate, and they must complete together. Hold them accountable to good effort, and a shared outcome, before either get to play on the phones or computers.
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.
4. 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.
5. Show no interest in the small stuff, like bickering, arguing, and teasing.
Why? Because you want your kids to figure out how to get out of these moments. Mostly, if one sibling is ugly or provocative, the other sibling needs to learn how to ignore them, not fight with them. In the history of brothers and sisters, there is not one moment when telling a sibling to ‘stop that,’ where those instructions have actually worked. It’s futile.
So instead, show your disinterest in these moments so your children can learn to have a disinterest in these moments. It’s the only way it works to build a sense of resilience and learning to ‘not take personally’ the ugliness and snarkiness of others.
Finally, this is also about where you invest your energy. If you keep giving your energy to the moments you don’t want or don’t approve of in your home, you will see that your future is filled with more and more the moments you do not want.
Avoid this. Walk away from these moments. Only step in when there is a need for action (i.e., consequence).
Closing Reminder: This takes time. The sibling strategy is not the one-week turnaround. There is a learning process that must unfold between siblings, that has nothing to do with you. So be patient. Just stick to the game plan, and keep your calm. It will get better soon.