Sibling Rivalry? Strategies for Helping Your Kids Get Along

Do your kids get along?

Sibling fights were an everyday occurrence growing up in my house. I remember feeling a lot of rage as a child which was fueled by the injustice I felt at being the "oldest" - and therefore responsible for the poor behavior of my younger siblings. 

When there were disagreements among us, verdicts of guilt and innocence were handed down and conflict was typically handled with swift, punitive actions and mandatory groundings. 

I was usually found responsible for instigating trouble (or not stopping it) and required to change my behavior because I was "older" and "should know better." 

This produced feelings of isolation and shame, but it did not improve my behavior.

When you're slapped, you learn to slap.
When you're shamed, you learn to shame. 

When my siblings didn't "listen" to me, I felt unable to control my anger and they became the target of my aggression. I found myself unable to stop this pattern or explain it.

I was lacking the skills I needed to self-regulate and understanding from a caring adult who could have helped me expand my self-awareness and develop those skills.

I did not feel there were any adults on whom I could rely. There were no calm, composed, empathetic adults willing to listen - to hear me out and understand my point of view.

I couldn't grow.
I was stuck.

I was left feeling misunderstood and unloved. "Never able to do anything right," became part of my internal dialogue which shaped my self-concept.

Some sibling conflict and fighting is normal and natural. Kids have different personalities, tastes, perceptions, likes and dislikes. Individuality must be allowed if we want authentic connections to form. 

We tend to base our value or competence as a parent on how well our kids get along or how much conflict we experience in the family. 

When our kids fight - we feel stressed and we blame ourselves.

The sabotaging thoughts, "I'm not good enough or this isn't working" come pounding down the door of our minds, eliciting a powerful urge to control our kids.  

But, when our kids play "nicely," we feel worthy and capable.  
This is an emotional game you don't want to play with yourself. 

Happiness is a choice. Conflict is not the enemy. 

What matters is how we see conflict and disagreement between our kids - as dangerous or developmental

When the alarm signals the brain there is danger, we shut down empathy and cooperation.  

Instead of making choices that inspire our kids to learn more about themselves and others, we revert to controlling the situation and directing the outcome with punitive, threatening or uncompromising "discipline" which denies siblings an outlet to channel those unhappy emotions

When we control the situation or direct the outcome, one child often comes out feeling like the "winner" and the one buries his feelings deep inside his heart.

When we view sibling conflict through a developmental lens, we respond with patience and guidance knowing children are still learning how to manage problems on their own.

Many times, kids will work it out. They'll get better at communication and problem-solving strategies as they mature - if they are provided with good models and time to mature. 

And at other times, you'll need to step in and restore the calm, help your kids regulate, create space for them to have a voice and give them a chance to practice their skills alongside your nurturing responses.

Once children learn to clearly express what they need and how they feel, they will be able to afford others the same opportunity. 

In this TEACHable Moments episode, I'm sharing a few strategies which will help you help your kids get along. need the freedom to *not" like each other before they can learn to love each other.  (Tweet it!)

Whether it is an older sibling who has stuffed down anger and jealousy targeting a younger child or a feisty younger child who pushes a more passive, older sibling to the brink - aim to look under the hood and connect before you direct.

ASK: What is underneath these antagonistic behaviors which are driving a wedge between my kids? Look for the root causes of negative sibling dynamics, and then seek out and appreciate your child's point of view.

Let go of the fantasy your kids will never fight or that they will be the best of friends, and instead, equip them with the skills they need to respect others, expand their tolerance, and peacefully manage disagreements.

After you watch the video, let's try an exercise. Can you put the feelings into words? What is ONE complaint you hear from your children most often? Let's re-frame it without judgment and then leave your example in the comments below.

I shared a few language re-frames in the video - but it would be great if you would share your example and post it below for others to learn from!

Thank you so much for watching, reading and sharing!
Have a great week.



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