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Posts Tagged ‘Siblings’

4 Ways to Raise Siblings Who Love Each Other


Siblings who fight a lot gain surprising advantages, from thicker skins to sharper negotiating skills. Plus, “Savvy parents know that a conflict-free relationship between siblings is not the same as a close-knit relationship,” writes Chicago Tribune parenting columnist Heidi Stevens. The goal is to have kids who love as hard as they battle. Here, four tips for raising lifelong best friends who share everything—including you.


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Fight smart in front of them

When parents handle conflict and anger with each other in a healthy, respectful way, they are modeling how their kids should face off. If you slam doors, hurl insults or, um, actual household items, it’s a safe bet they’ll mimic you the next time someone pushes their buttons. Added incentive to hit above the (emotional) belt? Kids cannot keep secrets. Ask anyone who’s died a little inside while her kid told the dentist how Mommy threw her egg sandwich at Daddy.



When in doubt, let them work it out

Unless your kids’ fights are about to enter the realm of bloodshed or bullying, or they’re stuck in a pattern where an older child seems to always dominate a younger one, give them a minute before you get involved. Per experts, siblings’ fights are valuable opportunities for growth. Hair-trigger intervention only perpetuates their reliance on you as a referee. Also, stepping in may mean taking sides—a surefire way to stir up sibling rivalry. “It can be more difficult to hang back and observe emotional situations than to try to solve problems for your kids on the spot,” writes parenting expert Michelle Woo, citing research on how kids in Germany and Japan become self-reliant by problem-solving amongst themselves. “[What kids] need is consistent guidance, a place to explore their feelings, a model of kindness. What they probably don’t need is a referee monitoring every single play.” As Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, told NPR: “One of the most profound effects siblings have on you is that area of conflict resolution skills, that area of relationship formation and maintenance.” 



Or don’t! Try this instead

A growing number of psychologists and educators swears by a conflict resolution method called Restorative Circles. You step in at the start of a fight and ask your kids to take a deep breath and sit down with you calmly in a circle. (Obviously, for screaming banshee fights, separation and soothing come first.) For just a few minutes, each child gets a chance to speak their grievance (You ask: “What do you want your brother to know?”), and the other child(ren) is asked to interpret what they’ve just heard (“What did you hear your sister saying?”). Then you go back to the first child (“Is that what you meant?”) until a mutual understanding is reached/all kids feel heard. Then everyone brainstorms ideas to find an agreeable solution.



The family that plays together, stays together

Even—especially—if your kids are like oil and water, or more than a few years apart, it can be tempting to let them lead separate lives. Try not to. Choose toys that appeal to all age groups (Marry us, Bristle Blocks!), group activities on weekends or family vacations, and require them to show up for each other’s games or recitals. No matter how much they fight, research shows reason to be optimistic. “About 10, 15 percent of sibling relationships truly are so toxic that they’re irreparable,” says Kluger. “But 85 percent are anywhere from fixable to terrific.” After all, he notes: “Our parents leave us too soon, our spouses and our kids come along too late…Siblings are the longest relationships we’ll ever have in our lives.”


This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Put an End to Sibling Rivalry (Finally!)

From Jan Brady wailing “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” to the Pearson kids on This Is Us arguing over which member of the Big Three mom loved the most, sibling rivalry is a fact of life in any family with more than one kid. After all, who hasn’t felt like the wronged child—the one who always gets the earlier bedtime or the smaller scoop of mac & cheese? And no matter how careful you are to make sure your kids feel equally loved, one of them will inevitably bust out, “Not fair, you always take her side!” You may not be able to turn your household into one big harmonious sing-along, but here are some ways to keep the squabbling to a controlled minimum.

Let them resolve their own fights.

If you take sides—especially if you weren’t there to see the whole dispute—someone will end of feeling misunderstood. Plus, kids learn more from working out their battles, says Julie Hanks, PhD, a family therapist in Salt Lake City, UT. “Look at this as a chance for them to gain valuable experience resolving conflict,” she says. Letting them work through the different stages of fighting and making up also teaches the important emotional lesson that a number of feelings toward others can coexist, including love and jealousy, says Barbara Greenberg, PhD, a family therapist in Fairfield County, CT. (Of course, if someone is about to get smacked on the head with light saber, do intervene.)

Feel everyone’s pain.

The more you can empathize with everyone in the family, the less left out anyone will feel. This is especially true when siblings are at each other’s throats. Let’s say they insist on giving you the play-by-play of their blowup. You can acknowledge their emotions without choosing sides by telling each one, “I can see how that would be upsetting.” Or: “I can tell you’re both frustrated, but I know you two will work it out.”

Help each child shine in her or her own way.

When kids grow up in a house where everyone is encouraged to develop their own unique talents, they’re less likely to compare themselves to siblings—so don’t nudge Susie into playing soccer just because it will be easier than coordinating her hip-hop dance and flute lessons with her sister’s practice schedule. “You can help kids build self-esteem by getting them involved in activities where they feel happy and accomplished,” says Greenberg.

Carve out one-on-one time.

In a large family, a child may feel lost in the crowd. That’s why Greenberg suggests having rituals you do one-on-one. It might be a regular outing (like a Saturday lunch after robotics class with Dad or a monthly mani-pedi trip with mom), or something simpler, such as a cup of tea together after school or a weekly trip to the library.

Aim for awesome.

No need to waste energy trying to prevent spats; instead, focus on building compassion and pride in each another, says Greenberg. That may sound like a gargantuan order, but it is possible. Every time you model empathy you show your kids how it’s done. Talking to one child about his sibling’s feelings may tame anger and jealousy, says Greenberg. You might even throw out a compliment-for-two, like, “Oliver has come a long way with the cello. Thanks for helping him!”


This article was written by Lisa Lombardi from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Siblings: First Friends

Siblings play a huge role in each other’s lives. Many siblings who are close in age become each other’s first friend. You can encourage a strong, long-term bond by letting your older child take care of his new brother or sister as much as possible.Siblings

Children learn a lot from their parents, and they also learn a lot from their siblings. It is best to encourage our children to have strong connections with one another for them to achieve stable social and emotional development. When children are close with their siblings, the transition to making friends at school is much easier. With siblings who are farther apart in age, the older child becomes a teacher who can explain how to make friends at school and how to behave in the classroom.

Along with being the first born, which is special in itself, your older child now has the extra special responsibility of being a role model for his little brother or sister.

What are some ways you encourage your children to bond with one another?

When an Older Sibling Acts Out

If your older child is acting out, she may be feeling less important than a younger sibling, who may have more needs—and require more of your time. While she may be verbal or even conversational at this point, she may not be developmentally able to express complicated feelings; she doesn’t realize why she’s acting out.

Making sure that each child receives a fair share of your time can be a challenge! Squeezing in a few special moments or rewards for your older child can help to feel more important.

Here are some ideas you may want to consider:

  • If you have to run a quick errand (and someone is available to supervise the younger one), bring your older child along. A quick run to the post office can feel like a special adventure when it’s presented as special time together.
  • Allow your older child to stay up a bit later—even it’s just 15 minutes. Save a special “big kid” activity just for this time such as a pop-up book, paper dolls or a special model truck.
  • Offer to read an extra story before bedtime—just the two of you.

Newbie-Doobie-Do: The Birth of a New Sibling

While you are eagerly awaiting your new baby, your older child may be feeling a whole swirl of emotions—including feeling a little left out. So, in addition to preparing for the “newbie,” now is the time to reinforce your child’s sense of belonging. As basic as it may seem, take some extra time to reassure your child that they will have just as meaningful a place in the family after the new baby arrives—and in fact, even more so since they will now get to be a big brother/sister!

Be prepared to talk about specific highlights and positive ways in which your child will be included, from helping to care for and be a protector of the new baby, to having someone to share the fun with, etc. If you have a sibling, share with your child some of your fun memories of growing up with a brother or sister.

Be sure to involve your child in the preparations for the new baby—let him or her select the outfit the new sibling will come home in, help him or her to create something special to hang up in the new baby’s room—even let him or her pick the color of the baby’s room (from colors you’ve narrowed down, of course).

Equally as important, be sure to make some extra special quality time for you and your child to bond—have a little picnic in the park, cuddle up for story time or bake up a batch of your child’s favorite cookies. Focus your attention only on him or her and steer clear of talk of the new baby during this quality time. Let your child know that these one-on-one get-togethers will continue even once the new baby has arrived—and be sure to follow through.

Sibling Rivalry Rx

Disagreements are inevitable in any relationship; the connection with siblings is no different. There are various types of conflict that can arise between siblings and they often stem from underlying feelings. Determining the root cause and addressing the feelings directly in these situations is best, instead of dealing with the matter at hand. The way parents handle these rivalries will ultimately shape the way their children treat each other. So, lead by example. By practicing a problem-solving approach, parents can use these situations as teachable moments in which conflict resolution and self-help skills are instilled.  This will ultimately benefit their relationships throughout their life. Below are common reasons siblings squabble along with some strategies to foster peace.


A feeling of injustice may cause a child to act out if they are frustrated and believe they are being victimized. Instead of deciding who is at fault or punishing both children for fighting, try to accept and acknowledge each child’s viewpoint and help them to express their feelings to each other. Find resolution to the problem by having your children generate solutions of their own that they can agree on.


Getting a great reaction from bugging a sibling out of boredom is sometimes all a child needs to create their own fun. In lieu of punishment or ignoring the problem, try to redirect the child’s attention by getting them involved in a fun activity or asking them to help you accomplish a chore or task.

Parental Awareness

If a child feels like they are not receiving what they crave from a parent, their actions may be a ploy to get attention…positive or negative. Avoid giving negative attention in the form of punishment but be sure to recognize when you observe positive sibling interactions. Try to create more alone time with each child individually.

Mounted Resentment

This usually occurs when unproductive parenting strategies have been used. When parents attempt to stop arguments instead of teaching children to resolve their issues, the lesson of conflict management is lost. In this scenario, a likely reaction is for children to harbor resentment toward parents and their siblings. This sometimes manifests into constant revenge; siblings often look to slyly pick on each other when they think parents are not watching. Steer clear of labeling and comparisons as well as revoking privileges. As an alternative, encourage each child’s positive efforts you witness. Although this may not seem to be a worthy form of discipline, reinforcement of positive behaviors is very effective.

Siblings of Children with Special Needs

Your experience as a sibling counts hugely in perpetually shaping and re-shaping your own perspectives and judgments (positive and negative) about how not to get stung in this hornet’s nest of competing interests, needs, and abilities.

I’m the middle of three sons, and have dozens of cousins. Several of them have special needs, but most don’t. I recall a riveting exchange from an Oklahoma Thanksgiving decades back where my loving (but daunting) grandmother chided one of her 7 year-old grandchildren for ‘cruelly teasing’ his sister; “Craig – you just can’t be that harsh with her. It’s your job to compromise – adjust yourself accordingly!”

He glared fiercely at her, went very still for a moment, and then burst into tears –“Yea, like I have choice. I’ve adjusted every day of my life for her!” and ran outside, seeking his comfort with the presumably less judgmental barn animals.

How many hours had Craig waited in waiting rooms while his sister received care? How many conversations had he overheard between his parents about her needs, compared to the ones they’d had about his? He loved her unconditionally, was incredibly proud of her, and protected her from insensitive peers. But wasn’t he entitled to think she could be a pain sometimes – just like all other sibling pairs from time immemorial? Couldn’t he not always have to try extra hard to make his parents proud of him since they worried so often about his sister? Couldn’t they talk to him about what was the matter with her and if she’d ever be normal?

These are the things that siblings of children with special needs struggle with every day, and here are some ideas about how to help them keep their balance (not to mention yours):

  • Let them know that you expect them to have many complicated feelings about their sibling, some loving and some not; and that you are open to listening without making them feel bad about it. They are feelings, after all, not explosives, and ambivalence is a thread woven into every relationship.
  • Avoid setting unrealistically high standards – emotional, social, spiritual, moral, athletic or academic. They are just who they are, not compensations for who they are not.
  • Expect them to reach their limit periodically (just like yourself), and try to avoid shaming them when they do. They need diversion and recovery time at such moments, not sermons. Guilt about ‘being normal’ is nearly universal in such children; making the sermons at such moments a kind of double-whammy of shame.
  • Nothing is more effective than mutually gratifying time alone with you, although careful listening is its equally effective clone.
  • As children develop, their understandings (and their worries) get more complex, so have periodic check-ins with them about their (ever-changing) questions about what is ‘the matter’ with and future for their sibling.

Ask the Expert: Battling Siblings

I’m the mother of two daughters, ages seven and eight and a half, who fight constantly.  My husband and I differ about how to find out who is wrong and who should be punished.  Help!

One of the most frustrating and least useful things to do when children are fighting is to attempt to dispense justice.  Typically, older children hit harder and younger children scream louder.  Older ones are more clever and devious; young ones cry foul sooner than is necessary.  Boys threaten, while girls provoke more often.  Trying to decide who is wrong when you weren’t there tempts children to distort the evidence.  So try to catch your children being good and make a big deal out of it.  Real physical or emotional abuse is pretty rare in well-functioning families but needs to be dealt with by giving children a cooling-off period – then reviewing the family rules.

The Birth of a New Sibling – What to Do?

Nothing unsettles the lives of children quite like the birth of a sibling: special event for parents = profound disruption of familial bliss for children. Some children take it in stride, but the majority may not. Having a sibling forces children to share the wealth in an important and healthy adaptation to living in the real world. Here are a few ideas about how to ease the pain, and promote the joy:

  • ‘Me, myself and I’ – The mantra of toddler-hood reminds us that 18 to 24 months finds most kids falling short of being able to participate in the care of a younger sibling. They have just begun to take care of their own business, so looking after someone else’s (with whom you have to share mom and dad) is annoying to say the least.
  • By 48 months: Children are able to feel some ownership of a new baby – rocking, diapering, comforting, and playing with a baby are possible, if not always high on their list of fun things to do. They own enough familial territory by now that they can afford to share.
  • A younger sibling often adores an older sibling. Teach your older one (don’t ignore the boys) to be tender and gentle when holding or feeding the baby. This is great training for future intimacy and competent parenting.
  • Preserve time alone with your older children several times a week. They may no longer be the ‘only,’ but they are the still the ‘first,’ and certain privileges pertain, along with new responsibilities!
  • Don’t underestimate how your own experience as a sibling -in a particular birth order – affects your perception of your children’s experience. You may be off by a mile in your evaluation of your child’s jealousy of a new baby if you are the baby in your own family, or the first-born.Keep the dialogue open with your children about the shape of their sibling relationships and you will learn a lot.

Blended Families

A “blended family” is formed when one or both members of a couple have children from previous relationships and combine households.  They are becoming increasingly common and at least one-third of all children in the United States will become a part of a blended or step family before they reach age 18.

Blended families should consider the following to help navigate obstacles they may encounter while trying to raise responsible, thoughtful, cooperative children.

Emotional Extremes

Children thrive on consistency and routine so it’s not surprising that the change of becoming a part of a blended family may be very unsettling to them. It’s normal for children experiencing this type of transition to have intense feelings of anger; sadness, grief, disappointment, insecurity, guilt and worry. As extreme and frustrating as they may be, it’s important to accept and support your child’s feelings. Listen to them and convey acceptance, concern and empathy rather than suggestions or judgment. Assure them that their feelings are normal and understandable. If you’re dismissive it is likely to intensify their negative feelings. Be patient and expect set-backs along the way – even when things appear to be going well. Lifestyle changes, holidays and events can drain children’s coping resources and trigger upset emotions.

Space and Privacy

Territory battles can become an issue when children need to share a room. Ensure children have an allocated area of the room just for them.  Consider using dividers, curtains or the creative arrangement of furniture to make a more comfortable, personal place. Provide each child with a box or drawer to keep their special belongings that is off limits to others. It’s important that family members respect each other’s privacy.

Rules and Roles

Couples should openly discuss their parenting values to encourage a consistent approach. Discuss what your behavior expectations are and find reasonable compromises for any areas where you and your partner differ. Decide on clear family rules and stick to them. As children get older you may need to make age-appropriate revisions. It’s important to maintain a united front when it comes to boundaries, rules and discipline. Rules should be consistently and fairly applied to all children in the family.

Quality Time

Feelings of jealousy are almost to be expected when families merge. Children can become envious of the relationships you are forming with the new members of your family. Maintain a close relationship with your child by regularly spending time alone with them. Simple activities like going for a walk or a ride in the car together can create an opportunity to reconnect. This individual attention will help support them through this difficult transition.

Problem Solving

To avoid simmering resentment, frustration, hurt feelings and bickering, arrange regular family meetings. This is a great way for parents to make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as rules and expectations while also allowing children to feel that they are being heard and included. Everyone should be given equal opportunity to respectfully discuss their opinions. Focus on developing practical strategies together to avoid problems in the future.

Children in blended families may at first be resistant to many of the new changes occurring. However, most blended families work through these growing pains successfully. Positive attitudes, mutual respect, open communication and lots of love and patience are all important ingredients in the recipe for a healthy blended family.