Working Through Sibling Rivalry

In Family, Kids on July 11, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Working Through Sibling Rivalry

With three kids, there’s no avoiding the tiffs that will come along with the presence of more than one child in the home.  One minute they’re all playing and laughing and the next minute there’s an argument over someone taking something from another or someone placing their toes too close to the other’s leg.  At some point, someone is bothered and one comes running to one of us to present her case of the “tattle tales”.

From the very beginning we have placed emphasis on the importance of getting along with their sisters.  Of course, there was never an expectation that they would avoid conflicts. We made it a point, however, that fighting or just not getting along with your sister was simply unacceptable.  “Your sister is your first best friend and no one comes before her” is the motto that we consistently use with them and reiterate whenever their spats escalate into a moment where we have to step in and referee.  We also emphasize such statement when they are playing with a friend and one wants to leave another sister out to play with the friend.  While different situations may create an appropriate environment for separation, the separation is not as much of an issue as the act of ditching your sister as if she is no longer important now that a friend has come over.  We absolutely support their time apart from each other, particularly as they’ve gotten older and created separate friendships with classmates and the like.  However, we simply do not allow them to turn their back on each other.  That, we do not support.

“Work it Out”

While we have always used effective communication as a means to the girls working out their own issues with each other, this tool has now become even more effective as the youngest matures and begins to comprehend more of her ways.  Whenever they have their moments where they’d rather present their case to mom and dad than to continue talking with the sister who is causing the issue, we now send them out of the room and tell them to “work it out”.  First, most of the situations occur out of our sight creating the proverbial “she said” moments that cause us to determine which child was most convincing.  This creates an issue in itself.  Secondly, at some point, the girls have to learn conflict resolution and effective communication skills.  We felt that if they couldn’t do this inside the home, it would definitely make it harder for them to transfer such skills outside of the home.  So, if there is a problem with your sister, then you need to communicate such issue with your sister, not mom and dad.

Although our days as “referee” have not ended, our job duties have indeed been reduced.  We know that our words are not always well received as one of them may still try to state their case to us as they are walking out the door to face their adversary.  Other times, however, it is rewarding to hear them work out the situation and negotiate compromises that will allow them to move forward in a reasonable manner.  The most rewarding is hearing them work out situations without us  at all.  Sometimes they remember that arguing over a toy or item will only result in both or all of them losing it so it’s best to decide amongst themselves how they will share.

By no means is this a foolproof way to end the unavoidable traps of sibling rivalry.  This is, however, a start or addition to helping children to find a reasonable way to solve problems amongst themselves.  Again, these skills aren’t just for the home but they are skills that are necessary for life.  Watching them evolve and use such skills is rewarding itself.  It may not always be perfect but it is definitely effective and more peaceful.

Sibling peace! That’s What’s Up!




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