Parenting is not an easy task, even with just one child. Once you get to two, it gets a bit trickier, and when you reach three….four… or five… bring on the super hero cape! These days it seems like social media is plastered with pictures of perfectly behaved siblings, getting along and happily playing together. Or maybe you see the cute neighbor girls walking down your street, skipping and laughing. If you’re like me you might find yourself wondering if you’ve done something wrong and if your kids will ever appreciate their siblings.

I don’t know about you but, some days it feels like my kids never stop fighting. I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone! Research shows on average, “young siblings argue or fight 3.5 times an hour, which adds up to ten minutes of every hour. In observational studies, siblings make 700 percent more negative and controlling statements to each other than they do to friends.” Kids tend to be more critical and less patient with siblings because they know as part of their family, they aren’t going anywhere. Whereas if they upset their friend they may not want to come back to play again.

It’s no wonder that some days you feel extremely worn out, you’re playing the referee, hour after hour, day after day. 

Here are a few simple tips to help unite siblings by creating positive interactions.

ENCOURAGE ACTIVITIES THAT PROMOTE HAPPINESS

Pay attention to what activities encourage your children to play happily together and what activities cause more contention. When children are both enjoying an activity together it can decrease the likelihood of them fighting and when a disagreement does occur it has a greater chance of being resolved more quickly without needing a parent to intervene. 

LEARN TO SOLVE CONFLICT

Teaching our kids to solve conflict on their own will be a skill that will aid them throughout the rest of their lives. One of the best things we can teach them is to identify the problem and communicate effectively. For example, if one of your children calls another one a name and hurts their feelings, their first reaction might be to call them a mean name back or maybe even a physical retaliation. Teaching your child to use “I feel” statements helps address issues by putting focus on the way the action effected them without being accusing and creating conflict. Practicing scenarios with your child where they may react negatively will help them to deal with them as they arise in every day life, as it may be hard for young children who are just learning how to handle their emotions to respond in an appropriate way when emotions are running high.

UNDERSTANDING & EMPATHY

Many times it is best to let your children try and figure it out for themselves, but when it requires you to intervene, listening to each child’s side of the story gives them validation and affirmation that the emotions they feel are important. When you do this it is easier to help each of your children to put themselves in their siblings shoes, so they can understand each other and develop empathy. You may be tempted to separate them to get some peace and quiet, but research shows that though parents worry that their children fight too much, it is a normal part of growing up! And in the end, it is better to have them play together because it helps them grow as an individual and will create strong bonds that can last a lifetime. 

FIND ACTIVITIES THAT BOND

Finding activities to help siblings bond can be challenging, not only are you working with a range of ages, but every child is unique and therefore have unique needs!  It can be especially difficult when they all want attention in different ways all at the same time. For example, one wants a bottle, one wants to read, one wants to go to the park, and one wants to show someone a new trick they learned. And when they don’t get to do what they want? Often times they end up crying and fighting, which leaves you stressed out. By doing positive activities together they will be working on the building blocks of strong sibling relationships. 

Here are a few ideas of things that please kids of all age and promote interaction, friendship and bonding.

  • Simple Crafts
    • Coloring, paper chains, painting
  • Dress Up
    • Make believe can make frowny faces turn upside down!
  • Play a Game
    • Go Fish, Hide n’ Seek
  • Play Dough
    • Homemade or store bought
  • Building blocks
    • (Legos, Wooden blocks, Lincoln Logs)

But even with these tips and fun activity ideas, we know that kids will inevitably fight! The good news is that according to research, fighting among siblings will lead to positive social, interpersonal and cognitive skills that are important to the development of the child. This is because they will develop problem solving skills when they fight.

For more tips and tricks with dealing with sibling rivalry visit Kids Health where you will find some great help and resources.