“He pinched me!”“She looked at me!”“He took my toy!”“It was my toy!”
Sound familiar? If you have more than one child, you know what I am talking about! As wonderful as it is, having multiple children, there is an ocean of conflict to navigate on a daily basis. It can be maddening! It can be frustrating! It is a natural result of being a sibling and having a sibling.
Growing up in a family with brothers or sisters teaches our children many valuable skills. They learn (by trial and error) conflict resolution, problem solving, negotiation and compromise. These coping tools are wonderful for growing competent and gregarious adults; just try sitting through a two-hour business meeting and assess the aptitude of the people around the table. The most effective people are those with expertise in negotiation and the ability to draw others over to their point of view!
In an article, in Psychology Today, elementary teachers surveyed expressed that their students, from larger families, were advanced in interpersonal relationship abilities, as well as the exhibition of self-control. The students were stronger in socialization and attention spans. Having a brother or sister enables children to participate in imaginative play, expand their language skills and bask in extra attention.
The good news for all families is that by the time these children are in middle school, the benefits from siblings are no different from those of only children. The years spent growing; learning and socializing in school bring all children up to a level playing field. Only children get all their parent’s resources: emotional, financial, and physical.
If you are counted in the ‘sibling rivalry’ group, take heart! There are things you can do to help your children work through their differences. These strategies can help bring about much-needed peace and calm in your home. Foster a true sense of harmony in your home by heeding these valuable tips:
- Set clear ground rules and consequences. This doesn’t mean nail a list to your door with fifty different rules. Discuss only the most important concerns and don’t sweat the little things. You know what I mean.
- Encourage them to work through the problem with each other, if at all possible. You don’t need to get in the middle of every disagreement.
- Avoid comparing one child with another. Every child has their own set of unique strengths and weaknesses. Really get to know what makes each child special and deal with them based on those criteria.
- Listen and be flexible. Sit down. Look your children in the eye and let them tell you how they feel. Give them the time to explain, before jumping to conclusions. Listening is well worth the time and effort.
- Catch them doing something good. If you see Johnny helping Gina get a glass of milk, praise Johnny and let him know how great that is. Make sure Gina understands her brother’s act of kindness and thanks him. Tell your spouse about the “good deed” in front of Johnny. Say, “What a wonderful helper we have.”
- Spend alone time with each child. Every child deserves to feel special and valued. Look into the future. The time you spend with them now will pay big dividends in the future. Giving that one-on-one time strengthens parent/child bonding and builds self-esteem. It helps your child feel good about themselves and more appreciative of their siblings.