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Hav­ing a child is a bless­ing. Sud­den­ly every­thing is dif­fer­ent, and life as you knew it ends, and a won­der­ful new chap­ter begins. Hav­ing more than one child is dou­ble the bless­ing. But it’s also dou­ble the challenge. No mat­ter how it hap­pens – you’ve had twins, or you’ve remar­ried and now have stepchil­dren, or your dreams of hav­ing a large fam­i­ly came true — hav­ing sib­lings in the house is a recipe for high emo­tions, low moods, and down­right dif­fi­cult scenes sometimes. How do you han­dle that? And more impor­tant­ly, how do you help sib­lings deal with each oth­er and find a peace­ful path for­ward for the whole family? There will always be some con­flict between sib­lings; it’s nat­ur­al and almost nec­es­sary to healthy child devel­op­ment. But you can teach them how to han­dle those con­flicts by han­dling them well yourself. We’ve got some ideas for you on that score, on how to man­age sib­ling argu­ments and lessen the stress lev­els for everyone.

1- Don’t Compare Them, Or At Least Don’t Verbalize It

Have you ever caught your­self say­ing, “why can’t you be more like your sis­ter?” and then want­i­ng to kick your­self for let­ting the sen­ti­ment slip? Your instinct to stay silent is cor­rect; com­ments like that only aggra­vate chil­dren and make them resent their sib­lings more. It’s nat­ur­al to com­pare your chil­dren a lit­tle, but the impor­tant point is – don’t say it! Keep those opin­ions to your­self, or share them only with your spouse.

2- Start Teaching Them Early To Use Their Words

Siblings fighting l brother and sister fight l siblings arguing l brother sister fighting When chil­dren get upset with you or with each oth­er, they often lapse into furi­ous blath­er or worse – unkind remarks aimed at you or their sibling. Teach them when they’re young that using the right words to express their feel­ings, espe­cial­ly anger, is the con­struc­tive way to deal with their emo­tions and with oth­ers. Be sure to mod­el this behav­iour! Don’t mut­ter in an annoyed voice at a mar­ket­ing caller one day and the next; ask your child to hold their unkind anger words. Chil­dren do what they see far more than what we tell them, as most par­ents know. They will repeat behav­iour they see in you, so make sure you’re act­ing as you want them to act.

3- Know When To Step In & When To Step Out

Chil­dren have to learn how to nego­ti­ate con­flict even­tu­al­ly, but if a sit­u­a­tion has devolved into a scream­ing and hit­ting match, it’s time to step in and take their tem­per­a­tures down. Yet, in many instances, par­ents inter­vene too soon, there­by deny­ing the sib­lings the oppor­tu­ni­ty of solv­ing the sit­u­a­tion themselves. It’s under­stand­able that you, as a par­ent, hate hear­ing them be unkind to each oth­er, but know when it’s appro­pri­ate to come between them and when to let them sort it out them­selves. And don’t take sides unless it’s obvi­ous one is to blame! You can calm the waters with­out stat­ing or even imply­ing that one child is right and the oth­er com­plete­ly wrong.

4- Pay Equal Attention To All Your Children

If you’ve had one child for sev­en years who sud­den­ly becomes a sib­ling, chances are the old­er one is going to be jeal­ous, at least for a while. They have had you all to them­selves for years, and now they have to share you in terms of your time and ener­gy. Say­ing things like, “you’ve got to be qui­et so your baby broth­er can sleep,” is not help­ful, even if it may be true. Ask your spouse to take over one duty or the oth­er – doing some­thing with the old­er child while you tend to the baby. But ignor­ing the first child sets up some­times endur­ing grounds for jeal­ousy and resent­ment that takes years to over­come. Hav­ing more than one child is exhaust­ing – we know – but try to be as con­scious as your first­born child’s needs now as you were when they were the sole focus of your par­ent­ing attention.

5- Consider Separate Bedrooms As They Get Older

Lots of sib­lings love shar­ing bed­rooms when they are tod­dlers and even into the tween years, but after that, most don’t. Giv­ing them space of their own is one way to sep­a­rate the sib­lings for sev­er­al hours a day, and of course, at night. Hav­ing time alone helps us all calm down and put things into per­spec­tive, and that’s just as true for teenagers deal­ing with sib­lings. Giv­ing them some pri­va­cy and keep­ing the kids apart out­side of meal times and oth­er fam­i­ly activ­i­ties is one way to pre­vent fights from build­ing in the first place.

6- Praise Them a Lot When They Deserve It

Let’s say you’ve heard noth­ing but argu­ing for the last 10 days, but tonight you’ve got an impor­tant meet­ing and need the eldest child to babysit. Nat­u­ral­ly, they need to take this respon­si­bil­i­ty seri­ous­ly and super­vise the chil­dren while ensur­ing they are safe, fed and entertained. There is noth­ing wrong with pay­ing your teenag­er for the task; you would pay a neigh­bour to babysit, right? That gives them the incen­tive to take care of their sib­lings well, and if you praise them for a job well done after­wards along with pay­ing them, so much the better! The same goes for the younger child in that sce­nario; praise them for behav­ing well while you’re out. (Don’t pay them, though!) Tell them both how proud you are that they got through the evening by act­ing mature­ly with each oth­er and that you hope the behav­iour con­tin­ues in the com­ing days and weeks.

7- Make The Rules For Acceptable Behaviour Clear

It isn’t enough to say some­thing like, “Be nice to your broth­er and sis­ter.” You must be firm and clear about what behav­iour you’ll accept, but more impor­tant­ly, what behav­iour (and lan­guage) you won’t accept. For exam­ple, sib­lings swear­ing at each oth­er (or heav­en for­bid at you!) is nev­er accept­able and must have con­se­quences, per­haps reduced or no screen time for a set num­ber of days. The same goes for scream­ing – chil­dren need to know that is not accept­able either. Any behav­iour that is not accept­ed by soci­ety at large should not be tol­er­at­ed at home, like yelling, curs­ing and stomp­ing away furi­ous­ly or throw­ing things at each oth­er. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, some chil­dren do act like this with their sib­lings, and it is vital that you, as the author­i­ty at home, step in and make sure they know act­ing this way has consequences. 

8- Explain That Love Comes With Limits

Sib­lings will some­times say, “You let her do that,” imply­ing that you love their sis­ter more because she got to do some­thing they can’t. This is why it’s vital that you explain that lov­ing them means set­ting bound­aries that are appro­pri­ate to their ages and experience.  Explain why their sib­ling was allowed to do some­thing they are not and that it is pre­cise because you love them; you are say­ing no. Put it in terms they will under­stand, but most impor­tant­ly, stress that every­thing you do and don’t allow them to do is out of love, con­cern, and care.

9- Do Fun Activities As a Family

Siblings fighting l brother and sister fight l siblings arguing l brother sister fighting Spend­ing time togeth­er as a fam­i­ly unit is the best way to dif­fuse neg­a­tiv­i­ty and hard feel­ings. Choose some­thing every­one loves doing – go to the beach for a day, for exam­ple, or rent a cot­tage dur­ing the sum­mer – and spend the time get­ting recon­nect­ed. In these set­tings, sib­lings have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get to know one anoth­er again and dis­cov­er just how much they love each other.

10- If Things Worsen, Get Professional Help

It’s uncom­mon, but there are sib­lings who seem unable to sort through their issues and con­tin­ue to fight con­stant­ly, no mat­ter what you, as the par­ent, do to try to help. In that sit­u­a­tion, con­sid­er see­ing a fam­i­ly ther­a­pist for a few sessions. This gives every­one an equal chance to be heard, to get their feel­ings out in a safe envi­ron­ment, with no judg­ment. Even two or three hours with the right pro­fes­sion­al can do won­ders when sib­lings are frac­tured and mis­er­able with each oth­er and in the family.

Wrapping Up

Sib­lings often go through phas­es of fierce fights and quick make­ups for years, and then, as if by mag­ic, the con­flicts dis­ap­pear with the age­ing process. One goes off to uni­ver­si­ty, or a young one goes to board­ing school, or some­thing else occurs that seems to deflate all the troubles.  You may some­times feel like you and your fam­i­ly will nev­er arrive at that point, that lev­el of calm­ness in which every­body actu­al­ly enjoys being in each oth­er’s presence. But you will. With patience, under­stand­ing and a whole lot of love and affec­tion, your chil­dren will reach that place where they get along gen­uine­ly well. In fact, they may even strug­gle to remem­ber what all the fights were about in the first place. And you, the par­ent, will be able to exhale and relax 🙂  

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