Fights and disagreements between siblings are an important issue for all families and can become very exhausting, especially in the current situation, where self-regulation mechanisms that included visits to public places, outdoor sports, hanging out with friends, etc., have been put on hold while we create new mechanisms that allow us to coexist and survive.
We invite you to read the following guidelines so that you can practice them with your children and accompany them in this valuable process of negotiation and interaction that prepares us to deal with the world.
Practice unconditional love.
Accept your children and make them feel safe and loved. This will help them learn how to love themselves and not feel like they must compete with their siblings for your attention and affection.
Dedicate exclusive time to each of your children.
Make specific plans. For example: “now is mom/dad’s time with Daniel”, “today is girls’ day” or any other plan that arises spontaneously between you and your child.
Establish clear rules of coexistence.
Setting healthy boundaries helps them understand that there are norms in every context. This creates a pattern of action-consequence.
Avoid comparisons between your children or with someone else they know.
Comparisons hurt and generate the feeling of not being enough, especially because the bar is set higher and higher when we maintain this practice. Motivate your children to create goals for themselves because they are capable of achieving them, rather than living in the shadow of someone else’s achievements.
Each child is unique and special.
Find his/her strengths and help him/her optimize them.
Assign cooperative chores.
For example, you can assign tasks that require everyone’s effort to be completed. This way, your children can learn how to work together, negotiate with each other, and set their differences aside. Likewise, give them positive feedback when you see them playing. For instance, tell them how great everything looks when they work as a team!
Avoid assigning a lot of responsibility to the “older” sibling in comparison to the one who’s younger. It is important to take into account the age difference between your children.
Sometimes the older sibling is only 2, 4, 6 years old, etc., and does not know how to properly take care of someone else. Naturally, when they become aware of some dangers, they will try to protect their sibling. Monitor their reaction to the request as this situation can create resentment towards siblings and parents. Every child wants and needs to feel cared for.
In discussions between siblings, we suggest intervening when you see that there is always someone who is unfairly depicted as the “victim” or when there is a physical risk between them. When intervening, do not try to find out who started the fight, but motivate them to speak and reach new agreements. You can also intervene by helping them identify the attitudes that have caused the situation and encouraging them to change their attitude. They are not criminals in need of a trial. They are two people who need to learn how to negotiate and to understand their tolerance levels in the different scenarios that may arise.
Teach them to take responsibility for their actions.
When your younger child does something to their older sibling and the older sibling gets upset, don’t excuse the younger child simply because of their age. You can tell your older kid that their little brother/sister does not have as much control over their behavior, but you should not minimize the demand. Similarly, rewards or prizes must change by age group.
Lead by example.
It is crucial to analyze the reason behind your child’s behavior. Be aware of how you interact with others and how you express yourself around your kids. Model social skills and assertiveness.