Turning Sibling Rivalry into Sibling Harmony
By: Laura Lebovitz | LAMFT at Grow Counseling
When it comes to your kids getting along, sometimes you can end up feeling less like a parent and more like a referee. Sibling rivalry is something that most families experience to some degree whether it’s a simple argument over a toy or an argument full of lots of yelling that leaves you feeling exhausted. Even though conflict between siblings is common, it can feel hard to figure out the best way to stop the arguing and help your kids get along peacefully. With some help from parents, kids can learn to get along and develop healthy and fulfilling relationships with their siblings.
Here are some ways to turn sibling rivalry into sibling harmony:
Avoid giving older children too much responsibility.
As a parent, you have your hands full all of the time. It can be helpful to ask your older kids to step in and help with simple tasks such as getting diapers, driving them to school, etc., but try to avoid asking your older kids to be in charge of your younger ones. This will allow the sibling relationship to be focused on building fun memories without any arguments between your kids about who is in charge.
Try not to compare.
All children are unique and are their own person. No one likes being compared to others around them, especially to their sibling who they have to see and try to live up to on a daily basis. Give each child in the family their own goals and levels of expectations that they can live up to. Too much comparison could have your kids feeling like it is a competition between them and their siblings. Instead, focus on the skills and growth areas for each of your kids individually.
Listen to their feelings.
It is okay for your kids to express anger, frustration, or hurt towards each other. However, kids may not always choose helpful or productive ways to express their feelings. As adults, we have learned over time ways to express ourselves in a way that doesn’t hurt people around us. Kids need to learn these conflict resolution skills, too. Acknowledge their feelings and then talk them through how best to handle them. Saying things like “I know you may be angry at your brother, but it is not okay to hit him,” will help open the door to conversations about healthy ways to manage their feelings while still allowing your kids to feel heard by you. Empathize with their feelings and then work together to problem solve with them.
Foster a team spirit.
Create opportunities for your kids to be allies and work together so they learn how to work harmoniously in a team. Assign kids tasks that require them to cooperate and work together. Ask them to work together to complete a chore so they can have a fun experience as a family. Learning how to work together with others at home will help them be successful at working together in the future!
Laura Lebovitz is a licensed associate marriage and family therapist that works in the Suwanee area at GROW Counseling. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with children, adolescents, young adults, and families dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with anxiety, autism, self-harm, life transitions like divorce, and building healthy relationships within families.