Do your kids argue All The Time? Do you feel like you are a referee? While sibling squabbles can be normal, there are definitely things that parents can do to make them happen less frequently, empower the kids to resolve them, and help siblings grow into having great relationships with each other.
- Teach your kids how to play together. Your older child especially will benefit from your instruction on how to play with the younger. For example, “Hold this blanket over your face and then drop it down quickly and say Peekaboo and smile.”The baby will love that and will giggle!” When you find yourself repeating a list of “Don’t,” try to switch over to a happy encouragement of “Do.” In addition to being more effective, it’s being more enjoyable for everybody, too.
- Teach both kids to notice, understand, and respect other’s non-verbal signals. A simple one is to watch the other person’s smile—big smile: things are probably going well. No smile? Maybe take a break. Another example: a 1 year old, who when she gets too worked up, will grab her sister’s hair—ouch! Teach the big sister to recognize the signs of an over-stimulated baby so she can take a break and save her hair.
- Pay attention to the messages that your children are getting from TV, books, and friends. The bulk of kids’ media portray siblings as annoying, or bothersome, or mean, or worse. It is rare to see loving sibling relationships—but kids need to see this way of relating to their sibling if they are going to actually do it, and they need your help identifying and rejecting the negative images of sibling relationships.
So point out crummy behavior when you see it on TV or in books… talk about your family values on how brothers and sisters treat each other… show your kids how to play with each other well and how to understand other’s signals, and most importantly: give your kids some extra love and support when they are loving to each other. These things will really help!