This is part two of a post on sibling rivalry and bickering (please click here if you didn't read part one). These are just some ideas I had on the subject.
If they are arguing or fighting, find a discipline that forces them to work together, or sit quietly together. If the boys were having trouble getting along, we would have them sit quietly on the couch for about ten minutes (of course, if they're really young you would shorten the time). They were told to hold hands the whole time and weren't allowed to talk.
Though they didn't like this discipline, it was effective. At the end of it, they were sitting quietly but trying hard not to laugh at each other's funny faces, etc. Another time I had them wash windows. One would wash the outside window and the other would wash the inside. Another time we had them work on an outside chore together.
While this will force them to get along and cooperate during the enforced behavior, it hopefully will also encourage them in the future to work out their differences and learn to cooperate with one another so that they aren't disciplined in the first place.
There were also times when we just sent them to their rooms, of course. Sometimes being alone is the hardest punishment of all and peace and quiet for mom and dad is awesome! :0)
Encourage them to give grace. This is a hard one even for us grownups. It is so easy to be upset when someone wrongs us. It is so easy to infer intent where it was not intended, and to put words into someone's mouth, or motives into their actions. It's a lot harder to give them the benefit of the doubt, to not take offense when slighted, to extend grace to them. But that's what we want to teach our children, and ourselves.
Teach them the value of saying "I'm sorry" and to forgive one another. We encouraged our children to say "I'm sorry" when they needed to, and sought to help them see the other person's side when necessary. We also modeled that behavior to them as there were times when we needed to ask their forgiveness as well for our own wrong words or attitudes.
Sometimes we required them to write an "I'm sorry" note to one another. Part of saying I'm sorry is learning to be sorry for your part in the conflict. Perhaps the other person wronged you first, but if your response back was just as bad, then both are at fault. My mom always used to say "two wrongs don't make a right!"
Sometimes you may feel you have done nothing wrong, but the other person's feelings were hurt anyway. We wanted our children to go the extra mile and reach out to the other person when that person was hurt by their actions, even if the hurt caused wasn't intentional.
Teach them that love is an verb, not a noun. Love means action, and siblings need to remember that family is important. How often do we tend to talk nicer to our friends than to our own families? How often do we make time for friends but short change our families. We show our love by our actions, not just by our words.
Teach them that family is important. Family traditions, memory making, being together and enjoying one another will go a long way to building their relationship as they grow. I have to admit that I don't see my own siblings all that often, but I know that if I ever needed them they would be there, and vice versa.
Let them know you love them equally and don't play favorites. This is pretty obvious, I know, but I remember feeling left out when one of my brothers began to excel at sports and I hadn't found my "niche" yet. I remember wondering if my parents were proud of me, like they were of him.
The funny thing is that this same brother told me later that he felt concern because I was excelling in my grades and his weren't as good! Fortunately our parents did notice what was going on and did a great job of letting us know they loved us both, no matter what.
Many times, someone will come up and say "You must be very proud of ____" and they will say it in front of the other sibling. I always tried to answer back "Yes, I am proud of _____. I am proud of both my children."
Encourage them to talk through their differences, and to listen to one another. I'm sure you've heard stories about how some siblings grow up and just struggle to get along. Jealousy, past hurts, misunderstandings, etc., can all contribute to a struggling relationship. Saying "When you do this, I feel..." can begin to tear down walls whereas "You always..." or "You never..." can build them back up again.
Hopefully when your children and (mine) grow up completely, they will continue to build on their relationship and continue to talk and work things out together, no matter what.
(Note: This post is from my archives as I am on vacation this week!)
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