She's Looking at Me Funny!
If I had a dollar for every time my son yells, “She’s making a mean face at me,” or my daughter says, “He’s touching me,” I would be a rich woman. If you have more than one child in your home, odds are that your children are best friends one minute and then arguing with each other 87 seconds later!
Siblings argue for many different reasons, depending on their personality and their age. When children are young, they often argue with their siblings over toys and their parents' attention. As they turn into teenagers, the arguments are often over sharing things like the family car, telephones and computers. Teens also become jealous of their siblings' over accomplishments, such as academics, sports or popularity issues.
“When children are given the opportunity to work out problems with their siblings, they learn life-long negotiation skills and how to get along with others, which requires consideration, compromise and reconciliation,” says Susan Tordella, founder of www.raisingable.com.
Although there is no magic cure to stop your children from arguing with each other or being jealous of each other, here are some ways you can reduce sibling rivalry in your house:
Hold regular family meetings
Family meetings can be a great place for siblings to discuss issues that have been bothering them and reduce arguments on a topic. Tordella suggests having a family meeting two to four times a month. “Every family member takes a turn running the family meetings and taking notes,” says Tordella. She also recommends keeping an open family meeting agenda on the refrigerator so that everyone can add items to the agenda as they think of them.
Put the toy in timeout
When your children cannot figure out a way to share a toy or other item, such as a video game or computer, remove the item so that neither child can use it. Explain to your children that the toy is in timeout until they can figure out a way to share it. “If they can't agree on what TV program to watch, turn off the TV. If they fight over which car they get to use on Friday night, don't let them use either car,” says Tordella. “This takes parents out of the role of judge/jury/executioner and taking sides.”
Be a coach, not a referee
When possible, encourage your children to work out the problem themselves. Tordella recommends that parents tell their children, “I know that you can come up with a solution,” and walk away from the arguing children. “It’s amazing how conflicts dissipate when there’s no audience,” says Tordella. It also teaches them problem resolution skills and the hope is for them to eventually resolve these arguments without your assistance. The exception is when it is a physical argument or if one child is being consistently picked on by the other one.
Talk about respect
If your preschooler grabs his sister’s book out of her hands or your teenager bad mouths her brother to her friends, they are not respecting their sibling. Make respect a family value and talk about how you should respect yourself, other people, animals and your belongings. By creating this emphasis in your family, it makes it easier to apply the concept to many different sibling rivalry issues.
Separate your children
The best way to ensure that your children want to be near each other is to suggest that they stay away from each other, but oftentimes some space from each other can end an argument. If your children are having a tough time getting along, help them become engaged in separate activities. You may have to find activities for each one that the other one is not interested in or send one child to a friend’s house to play.