Creating Strong Sibling Bonds
I can remember my two oldest boys’ first fight like yesterday. Having them close in age I humorously thought would avoid sibling conflict. But when my older son first tried to steal his younger brother’s favorite toy, I was baffled at how to handle the conflict. Should I let them figure it out on their own, or is adult intervention required? I figured the latter was necessary and jumped in to resolve the conflict. Unfortunately, my “helpfulness” didn’t help their fighting over toys. Wanting to foster a strong sibling bond between the brothers, I decided I would turn to the experts.
Creating Strong Sibling Bonds
Since I am no parenting expert, I have always turned to the “experts” when faced with a parenting issue. Sometimes, the expert is my mom. Other times, other moms, and many times, I turn to books. As a mother to 5 kids, my house has its fair share of quarrels and sibling rivalry. While I have some experience on what works and what doesn’t work for keeping the peace, I have found solace in a book called “Siblings Without Rivalry.” Many of the tips I’ll share below include ideas from the book, and since they have worked so well with my tribe, I’m excited to share them with you!
Treating Each Child Uniquely
Taking time for each child is important, but children appreciate the everyday actions that make them feel unique and special. I’ve tried to offer my children choices throughout their day to empower their individuality; from selecting what to eat at snack time to what movie to watch on movie night, each kid gets a turn to contribute to the family in their unique way. Another thing I’ve done to show each of my children unique ways of love is not by saying that I love them all the same, but by telling each of them how I love them individually. Praising each child’s individual accomplishments feels much more loving than when they are attached with a comparison to siblings.
Do Not Compare Children to One Another
A good tip I got from the book Siblings Without Rivalry was describing what you see your child doing without comparisons. For instance, saying “I see your jacket on the floor” is received much differently than “Why can’t you hang up your coat like your sister?” It takes some practice to break the comparisons, especially if it is how you were raised, but it’s doable, and the results are, without doubt, fewer fights and happier kids.
Of course, siblings will inevitably fight no matter what, but there are a few things you can do to ease through it. For typical bickering, let your children figure it out and experience conflict resolution. If an adult intervention is required, acknowledge the feelings, reflect each child’s point of view, describe the problem, and express confidence in your children to find their own solution, then leave. If things get dangerous, describe what you see and separate the children for a “cooling-off” period. The main thing is to allow your children to engage in conflict resolution independently but with adult guidance, as needed.
Promote a Team Atmosphere
All for one and one for all! Under no circumstances do I tolerate tattling, as it only brews resentment between the siblings. It is allowed only if there is a life or death situation, or someone is about to be injured, or if it’s against the law. Basically, don’t rat out your siblings to get them in trouble! This has fostered camaraderie between the group, and sometimes it does lead to them outnumbering me, but their sibling bond is worth it.
Another thing we do is call ourselves a team and act like a team. One example is when it’s time to bring in groceries, I call our “team,” and they all come excitedly running, ready to help each other out. Playing family games is another way to promote a team atmosphere, and if I notice we haven’t been playing games recently and there’s been a ton of bickering, I turn to some of their favorite games such as Candy Land, Battleship, Monopoly, Sorry, freeze dance, soccer/basketball games outside, large puzzles, and card games. By the end, the kids have likely forgotten what they were fighting about and are back to creating strong sibling bonds. In this case, distraction may be the best medicine for their sibling bond.
Fill Their Love Bucket
If you haven’t heard of the Five Love Languages, I highly recommend you check out the book or research them! The five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. The gist is that we all have a unique love language that needs to be filled daily. An empty bucket leads to a host of negative actions and emotions, so keeping everyone’s love bucket filled in a family helps to create harmony in the family unit. It also promotes selflessness because when your love bucket is filled, you can easily fill up your loved one’s buckets.
While we teach our children about loving one another and enjoying their unique sibling bonds, we all also learn a family lesson on unconditional love. And what lesson could be better than that?