Sibling rivalry is very common but it’s never pleasant for the parents. It’s even worse for the children. There are often hurt feelings, jealousy, and competition involved in sibling conflicts, and these could last a lifetime. However, there are ways for parents to encourage love and support among their children, even if a rivalry already exists. Here are eights ways to help your kids become best friends for life.
How to Help Your Kids Be Friends For Life
Set Ground Rules
Ensure your children know what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t. Additionally, they should know the consequences of bad behavior. These rules may vary based on the age and abilities of each child, but they should still stay as fair as possible. For instance, all children should be discouraged from criticizing and hurting each other, according to Mayo Clinic.
Emphasize Family Bonding
Tell and show your children that family is a source of love and support. Although they may prefer to spend time with friends, siblings could always be there for them as they grow up. They may not understand their importance now, but this message may sink in later as they get older.
And while you’re at it, have fun together. Find activities and outings to do together as a family, such as bike rides, picnics, movie nights, and game nights. This will create great instances for the children to bond over as they grow up. These moments will help them become friends they will support throughout life.
Comparing children could cause them to feel insecure and resentful toward each other. Many parents use this tactic to try and encourage good behavior, saying, “Why don’t you listen as well as your sister?” or “Why don’t you study as hard as her?” However, this just causes sibling rivalry and may have the opposite effect on the children’s behavior.
Don’t Take Sides
In general, it’s best to stay out of bickering. However, a parent should intervene when conflicts intensify to name-calling and violence. Ignoring this could signal your approval of this behavior. But as you step in, don’t take sides. This could come in the form of you deciding which child is right or it could be automatically siding with the younger sibling. Avoid using phrases like “You’re older, so you have to give in.” This could only breed more resentment among siblings since it’s another form of comparing them.
Here is what you should say, according to Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University, in an interview with CNN. “I’m hearing some scuffling. I’m hearing some conflict. I’d like for the two of you to work this out together. If you need some help, I’m down the hall but let’s see what you can do on your own.“
Encourage Their Shared Interests
Shared interests may not always be obvious but they are always there. It could be an activity like gardening, reading, baking, dressing up, or playing with trains. It could even be a passion for anything related to dinosaurs, superheroes, cars, or butterflies. Find ways to encourage this bond, such as by incorporating their hobbies into the family’s weekly schedule. By cultivating these interests, the siblings will learn to spend more time together. And perhaps they’ll realize they have more in common than they think, making them friends for life.
Teach It’s Okay To Have Nothing in Common
Many conflicts could arise from the children’s different interests and personalities. For instance, one could enjoy quietly reading while the other likes loud, exciting games. Teach these kids is that the important thing is that they love each other. Set up a system where they could work together to take turns or compromise. It’s imperative that they learn how to manage their differences on their own without parental intervention.
Understand the Reasons For the Fights
You may discover a pattern in the children’s conflicts. For instance, perhaps they fight more when they are tired or bored. Maybe they act up when one child is receiving more attention. Their fights could actually be competitions for your time or approval. Whatever the pattern may be, once you become aware of it, you could take measures to avoid or minimize these events. Very Well Family suggests speaking quality time with each child and helping the kids get your or their siblings’ attention in healthier ways.
Listen To Each Child
Remember, it’s not easy to be a kid, and it’s especially not easy to be a sibling. Allow your children to discuss and vent their feelings about each other and validate their emotions. If you have siblings, you could share stories about your own “sibling difficulties“. Don’t brush aside their feelings or jump to defend the other sibling. This will just create more resentment. Instead, make sure the child feels heard, loved, and able to talk about anything with you. This will help them process their emotions and learn love and patience for their sibling, making them friends for life.
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