Here's the latest from the Bright Horizons Family Solutions quality childcare newsletter from Little Friends Learning Center in Peoria and Bright Horizons in Bloomington:
I struggle with sibling rivalry everyday. It's hard to know when to step in and take control of the situation and when to let them figure out the situation themselves. This week, my two older boys have been playing Super Mario Brothers. First they were jumping around the house and looking for Koopa(the bad guy.) Now the story has progressed and they each have sidekicks (an E.T. doll and some other creature.) It has been entertaining seeing them squabble and then come to an agreement about how to play the game. I haven't stepped in much-except when they started hitting each other. If you have some tips for helping siblings get along, please share!
|Sometimes, we think that a happy, healthy family never argues, and that’s just not the case. Imagine never disagreeing with your spouse. Can we eliminate the arguing altogether? “You can try to keep the peace 100 percent of the time, but you'll fail,” says Dr. Robert Fox, Director of the Marquette University School of Education Parenting Center. “There are different temperaments among children,” says Fox. “Some children simply demand more attention. You can go out of your way to balance things out by spending equal amounts of time and attention on each child but it's not going to work.” Giving each child the attention he needs when he needs it is a more reasonable goal. In other words, fair is not always equal. “Just getting out the door, everyone dressed and backpacks in hand is enough of a challenge for most of us.”
According to Millie Ferrer and Sara McCrea of the University of Florida, the goal for parents is not to rescue their children when they are fighting, but to help them learn to resolve their differences. Parents can equip their children with the skills and attitudes needed for a fulfilling relationship. This is not always easy to do, but here are some suggestions:
Teach Supportive Communication
Focus on Each Child's Talents
Avoid Comparing Children
- “Why can't you be more like______?” (Sister or brother's name)
- “He never makes those mistakes, why do you?”
- “Let _______ help you; he does that so well.”
- “__________ never had these problems; why do you?”
Use Positive Reinforcement
- "Chore Equals Privilege." If your children regularly fight over who has to sit in the back of the van or who gets to decide what the family movie will be, tie the choice to a chore that rotates among them. For example, whoever has to do the dishes for the week gets to pick the movie. It takes any hint of favoritism out of the equation, and when children understand the parameters, they often cooperate willingly.
- The “No Sharing” Box. Allow your children to choose a few things that they don't have to share if they don't want to. Let them decorate a shoebox or a plastic container to reflect that the items stored within are special. Make sure everyone in the household, babysitters, visiting friends, and relatives understand that the child doesn't have to share the contents of the box.
- Teamwork. Assign your children jobs and games where they have to work together. Forcing the issue of cooperation helps them to experience the unique gifts of their siblings, as well as build an understanding of how much they can accomplish by working together toward a common goal.
- Ignore Simple Arguments. Do what you can to let children work it out on their own. Working at resolving their own battles can teach them valuable life skills, so walk away and ignore it if you can. Intervene only when the fight gets out of control.
- Think Switzerland. It's important that we remain neutral. As tempting as it is to blame the older sibling, talk to both children calmly without assuming either is in the wrong.
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