As a child growing up with siblings, I am not sure how we all made it to adulthood. There were a few fights that I felt lucky to survive. While there is some hyperbole here, this is a common sentiment for most people with siblings. It always seemed that my only-child friends were the lucky ones. They got all the attention, all the presents around the holidays and did not have to share anything.
My sister has been a major part of the best times of my life as well as an accomplice in the worst decisions of my life. I am lucky to have her even though I didn’t always think that way. At times, I know that my parents struggled to treat us equally while encouraging our individuality. It is not easy being a parent in any circumstance. Below are some strategies for keeping the peace while maintaining equal and unique relationships with each of your children.
Give each child their own space
Provide a room for each child or a spot in a shared room that is all their own. It is important that kids have a place where they can go to get away from the rest of the family. Let them keep some personal possessions there. Do not let other siblings bother this space, and be sure to treat it with respect.
All kids are equal but not the same
Allow each child to share their strengths with the family. Foster individuality and self-worth by encouraging each child to seek out and pursue their own interests. Also, each child may not need the same type or amount of discipline. Act upon your knowledge of each child in order to tailor your behavior and discipline methods for each.
Model the behavior you would like to see in them
It is absolutely essential to insist on good communication and the respectful treatment of each other from your kids. Model this behavior by communicating with them and your spouse in a mature way. Not only should you ask this of them, you should be sure you show this to them.
When to jump in and when to stay out
For many parents with multiple children, the yelling, bickering, hitting, and general fighting can get old. Help kids by giving them an opportunity to work things out themselves. Encourage them to talk it out or separate themselves. Verbally encourage them to do this. If they cannot work it out or they get physical with each other, step in and mediate or provide discipline. They should never be allowed to physically fight without consequences. If you wouldn’t allow your child to hit, kick, bite or hurt another child, you need to maintain consistency when they engage in this type of behavior with their siblings.
What is good for one may not be good for all
Disciplining all kids due to the behavior of one creates undue anger and resentment between siblings. If one child is not able to behave properly, remove them from the situation or keep them from the event. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. If one of your children misbehaves and you are by yourself, my advice is to go home and put the offender in their room while you create a fun activity or treat for the other one. Don’t allow the well-behaved child to brag or tease the offender.
Take time alone with each child
A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of spending one-on-one time with your kids. This can be a reward and it can also be a time for you to catch up. It is extremely important for each of your children to get your undivided attention now and then. Special dates should be put on the calendar and honored as you would any other appointment.
Having siblings and creating good relationships with them is one of life’s greatest gifts. Help your kids get past sibling rivalry while forging a meaningful relationship. It takes time and energy, but is well worth it.
For more help dealing with siblings check out these sites: