If you're like most parents of more than one child, you are probably tired of hearing, “He touched me” or “She's on my side of the car.”
You may also be weary of the bickering, blaming and name-calling that can be so prevalent with siblings. Remembering that God is the one who can change hearts, keep praying for your children while you practice some (or all) of these strategies for helping siblings get along.
1. House Rules
Establish house rules about acceptable behavior and be prepared to follow through with agreed-upon discipline if they break the rules. When your children know what is expected of them and that you will dole out discipline when necessary, they may be more willing to adhere to the rules better.
2. Divide and Conquer
When the bickering starts, separate the children so you have a chance to talk with each one on their own. Ask them to slowly explain, without calling names or blaming the other child, what caused the disagreement.
Acknowledge their feelings and try to understand what is underneath them.
Explain to your children that even though you understand their feelings, the way they handled the situation is not acceptable.
- Are they jealous because their younger sibling gets to do something they were not able to do at their age?
- Are they angry because their older sibling took something away from them?
Suggest that they think about what was said and done, how things could have been handled differently and how they can make amends.
3. Focus on Strengths
Try to focus on each child's strengths rather than on their weaknesses.
Try giving your child tasks that allow them to show their accomplishments. Give them a reason to feel good about themselves without having to compare themselves with the other children in the family.
Celebrate their uniqueness and ask them to cooperate rather than compete.
4. Celebrate Uniqueness
Obviously you know that each child is an individual, but sometimes it is important to verbalize it. While you may enjoy Mary's singing voice, you also appreciate Todd's willingness to help cook.
Be sure you let them know that you love each of your children as much as the other and that you don't have favorites, but that because God made each child different you may appreciate different things about them.
Encourage them to praise the positive qualities of each other as well.
5. Praise Good Behavior
Encourage them when you see them doing something nice for their sibling or when you catch them playing nicely together.
Sometimes it helps to hear thinks like:
- “It was very good of you to let your brother play the game instead of continuing to play by yourself.”
- “Thank you for reading to your sister while I was cooking dinner even though you wanted to watch television instead.”
6. Teach Them to Love as God Loves
Knowing that it is God who ultimately must change and renew their hearts and help them love each other, we have recently started a family Bible Study written by Kim Sorgius called My Brother's Keeper.
Each day we're reading from God's Word how he loves us, and has a perfect plan for us, including putting us in the family we're in. And we're also discussing positive things about our brothers and sisters and family as a whole.
Though we're still at the beginning of the four week study, we have really enjoyed it so far and the positive discussions it has created in our home. You can get both the youth and junior versions of My Brother's Keeper from Kim's site: Not Consumed. This list of strategies for helping siblings get along are by no means exhaustive. You may find some strategies work better for your family than others. Remember to use what works and toss the things that don't.
When your children understand that you are serious about their behavior and their getting along, when they understand God's plan for brothers and sisters, it may be easier for them to follow the house rules and finally get along with each other.Are you struggling with this in your home right now? Leave a comment below or in our FB community and let us pray for you.