If you have more than one child in your family, you are intimately acquainted with sibling rivalry and probably can use an extra parenting tip or two in that area.
After more than 26 years of parenting and four terrific kids, here are my top five tips for dealing with those pesky brothers and sisters.
1. Forget fair — but not completely.
Kids have an innate sense of fairness. As parents we want to teach our kids to be fair. Problem is, life is often not fair.
Often kids’ dramas with each other revolve around the idea that each of them is being slighted in some way. Treated unfairly. From a parenting perspective, we may see that there are multiple levels of unfairness in the situation.
Frankly, if we use ‘fairness’ as our measuring stick, we will be backed into a corner. We can never be completely fair to all concerned.
What to do?
Teach reality. Our kids’ need to learn (and accept) that life is often unfair but that *they* can be fair to others as often as possible. So, yes, Suzi took the last brownie without asking if anyone wanted it, but we will still share the new batch of cookies with everyone.
2. Practice random kindness.
Understanding the spirit of giving is central to getting along with others. A solid parenting tip involves setting up systems that reward kindness and generosity towards others around your home.
In the normal give and take of daily life, feelings are hurt and egos bruised. If kindness is built into a family’s routine, forgiveness comes easier, too.
3. Duct tape them together.
Well, not literally. If you’re up to your eyeballs in “he said, she said” and you’ve reached your limit on picking and poking, you might want to try my mom’s technique. When she could see that my sisters and I weren’t even trying to get along anymore, she would stick us on opposite sides of a window that needed cleaning and tell us to get to work.
It wouldn’t take long before the scowls would turn to giggles as we tried to wipe each other’s faces away. Mama’s wisdom kept us remembering who we really were underneath it all. Sisters.
4. Listen, with limits.
When your youngster comes to you with another dramatic story about his brother or sister, by all means, listen. Empathize. Understand his point of view.
Then tell him, enough’s enough. Teach him to find the offender and work it out. Shake hands, say you’re sorry and get on with it.
Letting our little ones go on and on with their pity parties only encourages more amazing tales of their victim hood. We do them a huge favor in helping them see the value in venting appropriately, then letting it go.
Such an approach also helps them differentiate between the Big Deals in life and the Small Molehills. A very useful bit of knowledge.
5. Get support.
This is probably the most important parenting tip I can give you. Parenting can be challenging and there’s no need to try to go it alone.
Befriend other parents who are in the trenches along with you and work together to find solutions to your parenting challenges. Listening to others’ parenting stories will help you maintain perspective when you wonder if you’re making any parenting progress at all (you probably are doing just fine).
Try this idea. Find other parents who are ahead of you in the parenting game. Folks who have already parented your age of children and come out the other side, weary but fine. If you respect them and their approach to parenting, ask them to mentor you as you navigate your own family waters.
Then do the same for another parent who is just starting out and could use some encouragement from a parent a little farther along than themselves. Like you.
The bottom line? The family is a training ground for all kinds of social behavior. Children are not born knowing how to get along with anyone…not even themselves.
Living with the different personalities expressed in your family is an excellent way for them to get ready for life in the real world, as well as form the deep bonds responsible for close friendships in their adult life.
And maybe some of those close friendships will even be with their adult sisters and brothers.