Although we know siblings will eventually become pretty much best friends, beginnings are usually tough. Relationships between young siblings have everything an Oscar-nominated film needs: jealousy, drama, conflict, tears and some (easy to spot) manipulation.
As a parent, it’s always hard to handle these situations. You want your children to get along from the start, to support each other and become one another’s best friend. It will happen, eventually. However, let’s have a look at the reasons why siblings might not always get along.
The grass is always greener on the other side
While the older sibling might feel the younger one is getting all the attention; the younger one will think their older sibling has all the privileges. Let alone middle siblings, who tend to just feel invisible.
- If siblings are close in age, their main problem will be that they want the same things
- If siblings are not close in age, their main problem will be that they want different things
No one’s ever happy.
Just because they are siblings doesn’t mean they are going to have similar or compatible personalities. And introverted child and an extroverted child will probably have some trouble getting along; the need of attention of the extroverted sibling will stress the introverted one out; while the independence of the introverted sibling will drive the outgoing kid crazy.
It will be your job as a parent to help them find a balance between their opposing traits.
So, how do we deal with this?
There’s not a set of rules that we know always works. Siblings are always different. However, we want to share with you some tips that worked for us:
Talk openly about feelings
From time to time, tell them to look at each other’s faces and analyse their emotions. It’s important for kids to learn to read when someone is sad, happy, in a playful mood, or already had enough and is not in the mood for pranks.
Teach them how to express their feelings
They are kids, we are adults. There are certain things, like emotional intelligence, that we need to teach them. Every time there’s a conflict between siblings, there’s something that has not been properly communicated; teach them how to do it.
- Acknowledge their feelings: siblings don’t argue without a reason (we might find the reason more or less reasonable, but there’s always one), you need to spot it
- Set limits: once the reason has been spotted (the older sibling took the younger sibling’s pencil, the younger sibling got mad and bit the older one), tell them biting is wrong
- Teach them alternatives: instead of biting your brother, tell him that the pencil is yours
The alternatives might not always work, since diplomacy is something we acquire as we grow up (and not always); but we will be teaching our kids how to express their feelings instead of acting upon them without understanding why. That’s very useful.
Teach them to stand for themselves
If every time one of your children comes tattling to you about what their sibling did to them, you always defend the child, you will create a dynamic in which, instead of standing for themselves, they’ll just expect you to do it for them. And what’s worse, they might end up accusing their siblings of things that never happened.
Next time one of your kids comes up to you complaining about their sibling having done something, tell them to stand up for themselves. That way, none of your kids will feel like there’s a favourite.
Sharing is caring, and establishing turns is smart sharing
Sharing is caring, that doesn’t mean every time one of the siblings wants to use the tablet, they can take it from their sibling and say “sharing is caring!”. We recommend establishing turns, that way you’ll avoid those conflicts altogether. And, if they still happen, you can always say “hey, it’s Tim’s turn until 7”.
Understand they need time by themselves
They spend more than enough time together, and share pretty much everything. So, linked to the previous tip, let them enjoy time on their own, as individuals.
Even if it’s to tell them they are doing better than their siblings. No competition between siblings. No more to say here.
Encourage them to work as a team
It’s very important that they see each other as an ally instead of as the enemy, so you can reward them every time they do something as a team. Of course, the reward is for all the siblings, so they have to share it!
Create an atmosphere of love and recognition
We talked about teaching kids to express the things they don’t like. Teaching them to communicate the things they like about their siblings is also crucial. Teach them to be thankful for the nice things their siblings do for them.
We hope you’ve found this post useful! Don’t hesitate to share with us the tricks that worked for you! See you soon!