Sibling Harmony

by Amy McCready

Peace and Joy: 5 Tips for Sibling Harmony

sibling harmonyLet’s face it – sibling spats are a part of life.  In fact, sibling rivalry is not only inevitable, it’s a healthy way for kids to learn how to compromise and navigate relationships. But on the downside, the constant bickering can also wreak havoc on holiday celebrations, daily life and Mom’s nerves. The goal is to achieve sibling harmony!

I appeared on the TODAY Show with Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, Child and Adolescent Psychologist and author of Princess Recoveryto discuss Sibling Rivalry.  (You can watch the segment here.)  Our four minutes with Kathie Lee and Hoda flew by and we weren’t able to share all of the strategies, but we’ve listed a few more tips below. Put them into practice, and over time you’ll see sibling rivalry and fighting start to decline.

Sibling Harmony Tip #1:  Don’t compare or label your kids.  Even subtle labels fuel sibling rivalry.  If Mom refers to you as the “studious one,” by default, I assume that I’m not particularly studious.  If she affectionately refers to me as “her wild one” or “her handful,” most likely, you’ll feel rather superior as the “well-behaved” one.  Be aware of how you may unintentionally label your kids and fuel competition.

Sibling Harmony Tip #2:  Spend one-on-one time daily with each child.   The most important strategy to minimize sibling rivalry is to be deliberate about your daily one-on-one time with each child.  Ten to fifteen minutes per day when your child has YOU to herself will go a long way toward reducing sibling competition for your attention.

It’s no secret that well-behaved kids are often ignored, while misbehaving kids get attention.  Beat them to the punch by proactively filling their attention baskets, and you’ll find that their attention-seeing behaviors, such as squabbling, will decrease..

Sibling Harmony Tip #3: Be a mediator, not a referee.  When parents referee sibling scuffles and choose sides, rivalry escalates.  Our job is to mediate, not play judge and jury. Bring the parties together and help them come up with a solution that both can feel good about.  That way, there are no winners and losers and they’ll learn valuable skills they’ll use in future conflicts.

Sibling Harmony Tip #4:  Don’t force kids to share. Learning to share is important and so are boundaries.  When kids are forced to turn to something over to a sibling, especially when it’s a new gift, they learn that sharing feels bad and they don’t want to do it again.  Instead of forcing your child to “give your sister a turn”, you can say, “That’s Megan’s new toy and she’ll let you have a turn when she’s ready.”  That creates a feeling of safety for Meghan and over time, she’ll feel less territorial and be willing to share on her own.

Heather Schumacher offers great advice on this topic, including the words to say, in her new book, It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate KidsYou can read more on this topic including what to do about kids who take really looooooong turns in a recent two-part guest blog post from Heather.

Sibling Harmony Tip #5: Tolerate the tantrums. Kids continue behaviors that work for them. When parents give in to a sibling’s tantrum and say “Oh, just give her a turn!” it fuels sibling rivalry and reinforces that the best tactic to get what you want is to pitch a fit.  Make sure the tantrum “doesn’t work” by letting it run its course.  You can empathize, “It’s hard to wait, isn’t it?  Would you like to play with something else now?”

Ignoring tantrums can be especially challenging over the holidays—especially when well-meaning grandparents weigh in—but take comfort in knowing the tantruming child is merely expressing her dissatisfaction, and that’s okay.  Learning to survive the mini-disappointments will serve her well in the years ahead, not to mention improve sibling harmony.

 

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About the Author
Amy McCready
Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of “If I Have To Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program To Get Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling”. (Penguin, 2011). She is a regular contributor on The TODAY Show and has also appeared on Rachael Ray, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, and elsewhere. As a “recovering yeller,” Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happy families and well-behaved kids. Her award-winning online course empowers parents worldwide to correct their kids’ misbehaviors without nagging, reminding or yelling. Amy is a sought after keynote speaker and trusted spokesperson for family-friendly brands. In her most important role, she plays mom to two teenage boys. Follow Amy on Twitter. Connect with Amy.
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Dusty

Help! My niece has come to stay with us for at least 4 months. She is 9 and my daughter is 8. We thought it would be great, she needed a change (things were not going well at home or school, parentally) and we knew her to have an underlying good personality, though we knew her to be needy of attention (the thing she doesn’t get at home). Anyhow, now the two girls are constantly bickering and picking at each other. I have had several talks with them about Choosing to be friends, about seeing the good things in each other and about being kind. It doesn’t seem to be working. My niece says that she knows that she is being mean to my daughter and that she doesn’t know why and we have explored some reasons and she has agreed that she should treat others the way that she wants to be treated, but nothing changes. My daughter is feeling pushed out and ganged up on. She doesn’t like that my niece isn’t nice to her and has started getting distant, and sad/depressed acting. I have tried giving her special attention talking to her, giving her alone time…
I want to help my niece, but not at the cost of hurting my daughter or having her get resentful and start acting out more.
It has only been 2 weeks, so I know it can get better, I just don’t know what steps I need to take. Oh and I home school both of them and my 7 year old son (who by the way doesn’t seem to have a problem with any of this!)
I appreciate ANY advice I can get! Thank you

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