I don’t claim to have the answer to sibling rivalry tied up with a neat little bow but I get comments all the time that it is so odd that my kids get a long so well. They are 9,4 and 17 months and quite honestly they are each other’s best friends. By choice. Yes, you read that right.
So how can kids get a long all the time. Well, they don’t but we have a pretty good track record of them maintaining respect and love for one another so I thought I would share what we encourage and how it has been working.
1. Give kids individual attention
Our kids all get Mommy and Daddy dates. Not necessarily both of us with each but every week we each carve out time for each child one one one. They are not necessarily elaborately planned dates but an escape to the grocery store with a child gives us an uninterrupted hour to listen to what is important to them. It lets us connect with them in a practical way. A quick treat on the way home. A walk around the neighborhood something that says you are my priority and I value you as an individual. They need a break from their siblings. My kids crave this time and it deepens our bonds with them too. Best way to get to know your kids is to spend time with them!
2. Don’t set them up to argue.
When my kids fight it is most often because they have been in an awkward situation. This can be a multitude of issues. If it is lego building and I say keep an eye on your sister then I am setting the up to fight because the baby will get a hold of their things and break those tiny brick creations before they can even finish building. Free play happens at hour home all the time but there are some toys that we clearly define as each kids this allows them the opportunity to say this is mine and they set their rules around it. More often than not just doing this allows them opportunities to set up bargains for time and it allows them to initiate sharing. When sharing comes organically and unforced it creates a positive pattern in their play. When we see them share we reinforce it. We praise it. It is no surprise that when their souls feel rewarded they keep up the behavior. If we are making a a grocery list instead if fighting over cereal, drink flavors and fruit choices when we get to the store make the them each in charge of one of the choices. Giving them an opportunity to control one choice takes the pressure off arguing with each other over all the choices.
3. When they so fight let them figure it out.
This does not mean let the duke it out. But arguments arise and I always wait a few moments to get a read on the situation before I get involved. Preferably, I don’t get involved at all. But if necessary I will offer a suggestion and allude to a consequence. It allows them to process that as the parent that we are not going to let the behavior continue but it gives them the opportunity to redirect their negative energy into coming up with a solution.
4. Make family time a priority
In a world of over scheduled kids this is hard. But it does not have to be. You can set up a family date once a week or make the commitment that we are eating one meal a day together with no electronic distractions. The most important thing is that kids see that you being together is a priority. We move seats around the dinner table so kids get to sit next to different parents.
5. Watch how you talk and interact with others.
Yes, you. How I communicate with my husband, my friends and how I talk to my kids directly reflects how they interact with each other. When I am in a mood and I yell. When one kids irritates the other, I hear them mimic my mood in their behavior. Nothing is uglier than hearing them misbehave and nothing more gutting in parenting than knowing they got it from you. Stressful stuff happens in life and we have a lot of discussions in front of our kids. But, we are very conscious to not add stress to our kids but letting them into the talks that are heated. They don’t need to pick up on the stress. What they witness, they own. Don’t let them own your junk. Likewise, when they see you interact with love that feeds into the way treat each other. The easiest way to set up good communication habits in your kids is to honor and commit to them as adults.
This isn’t rocket science and yes we have our days where their are kinks. But for the most part a little bit of planning, self control on my part spills over into my children and their relationships with each other.