35 Things Positive Parents Can Do to Reduce Sibling Rivalry

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I am delighted to welcome Sumitha Bhandarkar to Positive Parents today. Sumitha is the creator of A Fine Parent, one of my favorite resources!


As parents we all have certain dreams for our children. We want them to be happy. We hope they will be kind, gentle and well-liked. We wish for their positive growth and success. Equally important, parents with more than one child dream that the kids will grow up to be friends for life – supporting and being there for each other even after we are long gone. So, when we see them squabbling and bickering all the time instead of playing together blissfully (like we had fantasized), it’s a little unsettling. And tempting to rage on, punish or in some other way force them to get along. That never really works though, does it? You can’t force two (or more) people to like each other and get along well simply by dictating they should. So, what can we parents do then? I’ve put together a list of 35 simple things below that we parents can do to encourage our kids to get along better and establish a nurturing sibling bond that stands the test of time. These are great ways to positively and gradually alleviate sibling rivalry. Try some of these and see how it goes –
  1. Avoid comparison between kids
  2. Commit to a blame-free household
  3. Encourage kids to find win-win solutions
  4. Avoid labeling the kids
  5. Celebrate each child’s individual successes separately
  6. Make failure palatable
  7. Encourage teamwork – be it with chores or at play
  8. Make it a point to spend some one-on-one time with each child
  9. Do as many things together as a family as possible (grocery trips, visiting extended family, volunteering etc.)
  10. Institute zero-tolerance policy towards unkindness, name-calling, being hurtful to each other, etc.
  11. Be respectful towards the other parent – kids do pick up a lot from how we treat others in our lives
  12. Teach kids to set, and respect, each other’s boundaries
  13. Do not interrupt happy play
  14. Have a couple of games stashed away that they love to play together, for times when they start to drive each other up the wall
  15. Commit to non-punitive positive parenting – if they see you punishing them when they are wrong, they will fall back on “punishing” each other when they feel slighted
  16. Acknowledge often how lucky you are to have each other
  17. Encourage enthusiastically when you notice kids helping each other
  18. Buy material things based on need (just because the child who joined soccer gets a new pair of soccer shoes does not mean the other child who is not interested in soccer should get it too), but lavish love unconditionally
  19. Create memory books with happy pictures and handwritten notes that you can look at on days when things go downhill
  20. Create a gratitude jar where kids leave notes for siblings (and parents!) when they are happy with something the others have done for them. Mark a special day (eg. Valentine’s day) to read the notes out loud
  21. Let kids help with household chores, home improvement projects, gardening etc. Everyday moments of doing things together strengthens the bonds
  22. Establish the rule of repairs – if one child hurts the other, intentionally or accidentally, he must do what he can to repair the situation. Don’t insist on (empty) apologies
  23. When one child is hurt let the other kids help with the healing (even if they are responsible for the hurt, particularly if they are responsible for the hurt)
  24. Make sure each child has some physical space which is all their own, even if it is a small space at the corner of the desk
  25. Teach them to recognize their own strengths and live up to it, so they can be proud of each other’s accomplishments, without feeling pressured to live up to the other person’s strengths
  26. Teach them good listening skills so they can be supportive of each other
  27. Make sure every child has a voice, and their voice is heard
  28. Try to have at least one meal together as a family where each child is acknowledged
  29. Teach them to disagree with each other and negotiate respectfully
  30. Encourage games that require them to work with each other
  31. For competitive games, whenever possible, pit them together against you (the parents)
  32. Discourage tattling or telling on each other, unless it is a real emergencies. Help them see what constitute as real emergencies and teach them to sort the rest out by themselves
  33. Encourage them to get things out in the open and communicate, rather than harbor misgivings and grudges
  34. Work towards improving the emotional intelligence of each child
  35. Establish a daily bonding routine – eg. Kissing each other good night every night, or a hug goodbye each day before they go to school etc.
While all these will help alleviate sibling rivalry, it is just not possible to entirely eliminate it. Conflicts are a part of day-to-day life and the best we can do is teach kids to handle these conflicts effectively. Here is an infographic on how to deal with sibling rivalry effectively that discusses more ideas about conflict resolution and if/when you should get involved when conflicts arise. (You can download a free printable version here). How to Effectively Deal With Sibling Rivalry

About the Author:
Sumitha Bhandarkar is the creator of afineparent.com, an exclusive community for parents who believe that great parents are made, not born. If one of your life goals is to be a better person and a better parent, she invites you to join her and the A Fine Parent community in their slow and steady quest for personal and parenting excellence.

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