How to make your home a friendship factory -give those sibling rivalries the boot!
As famous as sibling rivalries are, I don’t know any parent that relishes them. Most often they are viewed as the side effect of having more than one child. While I agree that often these rivalries are produced from circumstances outside our total control, I do believe we can have an influence on them. In fact, I believe it is our duty as parents to insert ourselves into these rivalries and diffuse them as much as we can, teaching our children through the experience how to diffuse conflict in any life situation. Though it is most effective if begun at an early age, here are some methods I have found aid in diffusing rivalries between any age siblings and turning your home into a friendship factory!
1- Make memories, relive them often. Make a good memory and then totally exploit it. Make a point to put up pictures of your family or the two kids who get on each other’s nerves the most having fun together and being friends. Remind your family at opportune moments of that time so-and-so said “_____” that put you all in stitches. This may be from a great vacation had together, the afternoon where everyone got along and threw leaves on the trampoline or just that time your brother stepped on a mouse in the dark, squealed like a girl and hung onto you for dear life… It will bring a smile to everyone’s faces and remind them that they are friends.
2- Make family playlist. Maybe a favorite song from each person? All Disney? Oldies? Best dance beats? It’s your call- but make it and pull it out when you work together. Our dishes soundtrack not only motivates us and the kids to work faster and harder to get the job done, but creates some show-stopping kitchen moves as well. In short, It makes work fun. If you can have fun playing AND working together- that’s even more memories being made. In addition, every time they hear those songs wherever they may be- good family memories come to mind. WIN.
3- Let them help each other. As helicopter parents, many of us struggle with the idea of letting someone else heal our child’s owies- but what if, just what if- we allowed sister to kiss it better this time. What if we sent brother to the rescue? Not only does the sibling gain sympathy for others in pain but the trust between siblings grows. The one being helped learns to trust that sibling more, the one on the helping end gains the satisfaction of being needed in the family and the empowerment of filling that need well. (This may have to be a bit scripted the first few times, ie: “Natalie it sounds like your brother has fallen down, will you go help him? He would love a hug from you.” Then follow her. Encourage her to help him up instead of waiting for you to do it. Now help brother along “oh look! Natalie was worried about you! Isn’t she kind, that hug feels good, say thank you Natalie…” Wrap them both in your arms.) In my experience, both parties usually walk away feeling more love toward each other. You can hug on the injured party all you want when this exchange has concluded but usually they skip off to play together. If your children are older it might sound like this- “Emi, Olivia really had her feelings hurt by her friend today. Remember when that happened to you last week? Maybe you could give her a hug and help her feel better since you remember how it feels…” Take the opportunity to put some laundry away in the room they are having this conversation in (haha, sneaky momma) and listen to how it goes. Have an idea of something they can do together to renew their friendship with each other as an immediate follow up.
4. Eliminate sarcasm. This can be hard if it is the main form of humor in your home, but generally it promotes hard feelings. Encouraging sincerity can be such a powerful tool to bringing more love into a home. A good way to start is to encourage sincere compliments toward each other. Perhaps you can make a game of it but however you accomplish it- promoting sincerety promotes trust. When siblings can trust each other and parents, (who can often be guilty of instigating this type of humor) they have a chance at forming sincere friendships. Eliminating sarcasm is like taking all the questions in a relationship and throwing them out the window. All that is left are the sincere, unquestionable respect for each other. An that’s good stuff right thar’.
5. Don’t put up with anything that would make someone feel bad. The first time I saw a note on the door of a bedroom forbidding a certain sibling from entry, I immediately pulled the bedroom owner aside and asked them how they would feel if a friend at school put a note like that on their desk- forbidding you to come near. Or how would they feel if dad put a note like that on his door about them? How do they think the sibling feels? When sympathy is established, address the concern- (“why do you want him/her to stay out?” Answers usually include something like ” he gets into my stuff,” or ” they barge in while I’m dressing” etc… Address the problem ie: put the most valuable possessions in a safe high place, arrange for a lock only to be used during dressing times… Come up with a solution together emphasizing the goal of making that sibling feel welcome/valued AND, respecting the problem of the bedroom owner at the same time.
At the same time, get rid of influences that make putting someone down (especially a family member) look funny. There are a number of TV shows that glorify “coming out on top” with the best comeback, punchline or funniest insult. We make a special effort to blacklist these forms of entertainment.
Increasing our children’s sensitivity could be argued that you are setting them up for a lifetime of hurts in the world. I like to say that this world needs more sensitive people who throw out less hurt to others. When they recognize behavior that is rude towards others or themselves, they will know to walk away from a damaging relationship, or jump in and act as a friend to a victim. Being sensitive to the feelings of others will make our homes more peaceful, and in the wise words of Miss Congeniality, ultimately lead us to “world peace”.
What are the most effective things you have tried to abolish sibling rivalries?
Try some of these fun family traditions to help you create those memories that will have your children laughing together for a long time to come!