Sibling relationships are incredibly important and intensely frustrating! Having a brother or sister teaches kids important things like:
Love is not scarce. It is wide and expansive. Just because Mom and Dad brought home a new baby, it doesn’t mean they love me less. Siblings teach us that love grows.
A sibling can be a built in support system for the times that life is disappointing all the way through life from standing up to a bully on the playground for their sibling to supporting each other as adults when you their parents decline and age.
So, if having a sibling is so wonderful, why is it such a nightmare day to day?
1. Kids are new to this social skill. They need you to teach them assertiveness. Your daughter may say, “Mom, Avery took my Barbie. Tell her to give it back!” Instead of being the Barbie ref, help your daughter learn to advocate for herself.
Say something like:
It sounds like you’re really frustrated that Avery took your Barbie. Take some deep breaths to get calm and then use your strong and respectful voice to get Avery to give the Barbie back.
2. Instead of intervening in the conflict, put on your sportscaster hat.
Rather than you making the decision (Sara gets the Barbie or Avery gets the Barbie or goodwill gets the Barbie), provide feedback on what you observe- similar to a sportscaster.
I hear that you guys are both really frustrated.
Sara, you feel like Avery took the Barbie from you
Avery you feel like you have every right to play with the Barbie because it is yours.
Allow them to come up with a solution or give up and play respectfully anyways.
3. If you don’t have time or patience to be the sportscaster, set a boundary.
There are times when you don’t have the time or the patience to be the sportscaster and you just need the bickering to STOP! In cases like this it is ok for you to set clear boundaries:
If you guys cannot work this out together in 30 seconds you’re both going to be sent to your rooms for quiet time until my meeting is over.
Then after the meeting give your kids the chance to work out the issue from before, if it still seems important to them. Either way take the time to explain to them that when they choose to have conflict respectfully they choose to continue playing. When they don’t, they choose to have to go to their rooms for quiet time.
If you have questions about sibling rivalry or would like to schedule a sibling session contact: firstname.lastname@example.org