Encouraging Positive Relationships
Parents can play a major role in building and maintaining a healthy, happy, loving home life. Some ways to build positive relationships between siblings include:
Teach Supportive Communication - Helping children work out their differences involves listening to them and identifying their feelings. When a fight starts, children might feel many emotions like anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, jealousy or disappointment. When they are calm, help them learn to express these feelings in words instead of fighting.
Focus on Each Child's Talents - Each child is a special and a unique person. Children need to know that the contributions they make to the family are valued. By focusing on the positive talents each child posses, parents can build confidence in the child and strong relationships in the family.
Avoid Comparing Your Children - Children who are compared will often feel resentful and angry both toward you and their sibling.
Avoid using statements such as: "Why can't you be more like______?" (sister or brother's name)
"He never makes those mistakes, why do you?"
"Let _______ help you, he does that so well."
"__________ never had these problems, why do you?"
Statements like these can make children feel bad. They might also feel that they have failed you.
Use Positive Reinforcement - Parents are role models for their children. If parents want their children to be loving towards one another, then they must praise that behavior when it happens. Remember, positive reinforcement is much more powerful than negative reinforcement!
How to Handle Rivalry
The goal for parents is not to rescue their children when they are fighting, but to help them learn to get along with each other. This is not always easy to do, but here are some suggestions for a parent's role during conflicts between siblings.
Don't Become Involved in Your Children's Conflicts. Parents must stay out of their children's conflicts whenever possible. Otherwise, parents will become the judge and jury for their children. When parents get involved, they make it safe for children to fight because the children know mom and dad will not let either one get hurt.
Don't Allow Your Children To Fight In Front Of You. Ask your children to take their fighting elsewhere. Some helpful phrases might be: "I am sure you guys can work that out," "I'm sorry to hear you are upset with each other, but if you are going to argue take it where I can't hear you," and "It is up to both of you to reach a solution."
Problem Solve. Teach your children techniques to use when they get angry (walking away, counting to ten, or asking for help are all examples). Work on problem solving skills with your children when they are calm. Make sure they can name the problem and then discuss with them possible solutions.
Establish Rules. Make sure that family rules and consequences are well known by each child. Children must know that biting, hitting, and other acts that can cause physical harm are unacceptable.
Trust your children to settle their fights. Children need to learn to resolve their own conflicts. By playing a limited role in their arguments, you can help them develop this skill.