This is part one of two posts. Sibling rivalry and bickering.....ain't it fun? Not! Yet, if you have more than one child, chances are you've faced it at one time or another.
My boys are four years apart and are 17 and 21. They get along really well and enjoy spending time together. In fact, they have pretty much always got along well. I think that that four year age gap helped!
I'm not saying there weren't moments that the younger didn't do something to annoy the older, or the older didn't do something to annoy his younger brother, but it hasn't affected their relationship long term.
Just as we want to teach our children to get along with others, we also want them to learn to get along with their siblings. Here are some things that we did and some other ideas which may help.
We did not allow them to get away with hitting one another. At some point, most children are going to hit, and now you as a parent have a choice to make. Are you going to tell them that hitting is wrong, and encourage them to use their words to communicate, instead of their fists? Are you going to make the decision that this can't be prevented and therefore do nothing to discourage it?
I think if we expect that to be the "norm," then it will be. If we just accept that our children will get in fist fights, etc., then I imagine they will. While it is likely that some, if not most, children will hit at one time or another, that doesn't mean we need to encourage it or say it's o.k.
We also discouraged our children from wrestling for the most part, as it's been my experience that wrestling often leads to fighting or someone accidentally getting hurt (not to mention one son got his tooth broken in half by his friend's wayward foot while wrestling). Wrestling with daddy was encouraged, but wrestling with one another was discouraged.
When one of the children has a friend over, we did not force him to include his sibling in their play. Sometimes the older offered to include his younger brother, but it was not required. When I was twelve, we always had to play with my best friend's five year old sister. I rarely got to play with my friend alone, as her mom always made her include her sister. It was not fun as her sister was very difficult to play with and always insisted on having her way.
I know that some people require that the siblings be included when a child has a friend over. I'm just saying that we didn't do that. Each child was allowed to have their own friendships without being forced to include their brother. However many times they did, and they still do today.
Build on their friendship. When the kids were about seven and eleven, the age gap began to grow wider. I set aside 30 minutes a day in which they were required to play together. Yes, required. They took turns choosing games each day and for a half hour they played and talked and laughed. Our desire was that they build on their relationship, and a relationship is hard to build when you aren't ever together.
Do not allow name calling. I know that this is another thing that many children do, but it doesn't mean that it has to be acceptable in our homes. Words can hurt, especially from someone you love. Would you go around calling your child a brat every time he acted up? No, you wouldn't as that would hurt him as well as begin to label him a brat in your own mind. We want to discourage our children from speaking hurtful words to one another.
Please click here for part two!
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