It is most, if not every, parent’s dream that their kids will get along; or at the very least — that they won’t fight. However, try as we may, conflict among siblings is a natural part of growing up in multi-child families. Despite this, encouraging a strong sibling bond can be essential for peace in your household as well as setting the foundation for lifelong friendship. Beyond that, the relationships kids have with their siblings can make a big impact on other friendships and relationships down the road. So, whether it’s fighting over the last cookie or a favorite toy, we have compiled the tips you need for how to get your kids to get along.
When conflict arises, and in our experience it likely will, it is important to help kids find beneficial ways to work things out. Parents can act as impartial mediators, allowing kids to explain themselves and express their emotions in a calm and respectful way. Sitting down to let children try to problem-solve can help them practice for the little squabbles when parents are not closely monitoring for an opportunity to mediate. The tools you provide for resolving conflict and the practice your kids get using them could prove to be invaluable in promoting sibling bonding for years to come.
One of the major points of contention in multi-child households is parental attention. It can be difficult for older kids to learn how to share time with their new siblings, especially when they had the spotlight all to themselves before. So, if you take sides in the event of a conflict, it can encourage a competition. Do your best to help kids work out their difficulties together with your help instead of intervening and picking a “winner.” Support the idea of kids putting forth their effort to be the best versions of themselves.
One way to combat the competition mindset is to get your kiddos on the same team! Start by integrating sibling bonding activities that require teamwork. Maybe playtime can be a kids versus parents game of hide and go seek? Or maybe they realize they can cut their chores down to half the time if they team up? Encouraging your kids to work together can reduce the competition and help them start to see each other as on the same side. As they have fun, they can start to see the joy of being friends instead of foe.
Children naturally look to their siblings as role models. While younger siblings might start copying older ones on their own, do your best to avoid creating siblings as a point of comparison when parenting. For instance, if you use one sibling as an example, it might make one child feel like they simply do not measure up. This can let the competitive mindset fester. So, rather than telling one to behave more like the other, instead, ask the child acting out to behave in a specific way that focuses on their own individual growth and actions.
Ultimately, siblings can have fun together even at the most challenging times in their relationship. So, when you see your children enjoying each other’s company, take note of what is making them happy. Do they like to play dress up together? Does one help the other with their homework? Does music get them dancing in unison? Whatever you can find that gets them acting like lifelong friends, foster it and use it as a means to keep strengthening their sibling bond.
Siblings often run into conflict when they feel misunderstood or disrespected. So, help your children appreciate their siblings more by encouraging them to try out their brother or sister’s favorite activity. Play on one sibling’s strengths or key personality traits, such as sports or introversion, to help the other develop more respect, care, and understanding for their sibling. When they can start to see the world differently, from their brother or sister’s point of view, it can help them feel empathy and treat their sibling how they want to be treated.
How we talk to each other is important and this can especially be true for kids. It can make one child feel lifted up or torn down in a second if their brother or sister gives them a compliment or mocks their opinion. Set a standard in your household for how to respectfully disagree and which tones are not appropriate. Let them know that putting their sibling down is not ok. Instead, you might suggest that they are welcome to share their different perspectives and come to a mutual understanding. These practices can help kids develop independence and improve their relationships beyond their sibling bond.
A challenge that can oftentimes continue into adulthood is the ability to truly listen. Kids are certainly still developing this skill and can have a difficult time understanding what is being asked of them. If one sibling prefers that the other not touch their clothes and voices this preference, there might be a good chance that the information goes in one ear and out the other. So, help your children practice listening to each other’s needs and finding common ground. Feel free to jump in to place emphasis on listening carefully and reminding each other of voiced preferences. On the flip side, if something about their sibling is bothering your child, listen to them to better understand what is creating conflict to help prevent it in the future.
Kids who play together stay together! Make it a priority to have fun in your family. Encourage your children to spend time together like friends, playing. Better yet, make it an event for the entire family. Set aside time each day to enjoy each other’s company. For added benefit, pay special attention to activities that induce oxytocin. This could be singing, dancing, playing, laughing, hugging and more! Feel free to get your children excited about engaging in sibling bonding activities that promote happy hormones associated with their brother or sister.
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we believe that positive family relationships are instrumental in the growth of happy, healthy kids. While figuring out how to get your kids to get along can certainly be one of the big challenges of parenthood, with time and practice it is possible to foster a strong sibling bond and even lifelong friendship. As you try these tips and work towards improving closeness in your family, do not hesitate to reach out to your passionate Coastal Kids pediatrician for any additional guidance you may need. To make an appointment, visit us at www.coastalkids.com. In the meantime, happy family bonding!