Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Getting Siblings To Get Along

I went to an amazing parenting class last night given by a savvy, social worker at a local library. This lady was down-to-earth and passed on some fascinating information I want to 1) share here 2) make sure I transcribe so it embeds itself into my brain. Here we go:

When dealing with the relationship our kids have as sibs, we need to remember that kids often immitate what they see, so parents model conflict resolution. - The perception of conflicts, i.e. what is too much as opposed to what is normal, often rests in the eyes of the beholder. So what I consider normal sib behavior, you might consider out of line (although, obviously, violence is ALWAYS forbidden). - Sometimes we have trouble dealing with one child because his/her personality may not be compatible with yours, so you struggle in how to deal with this kid. This is completely normal & it enters into the whole sibling conflict when you tend to, even in the slightest way, favor the more compatible kid over the less compatible kid. - We need, as parents, to examine what our expectations/fears are for the sibling relationship. Do we expect them to be bosom buddies & are disappointed when they're not? Or do we just expect them not to kill each other?

This social worker believes that we're hardwired to feel there's not enough love/attention to go around, whether we're working hard toward equality or not. There are a few ways to relieve this tension:
*Have House Rules which you establish as a family. Write them down & when they're broken, point out that these are House Rules - they must be obeyed &, since the kids helped write them, everyone in the house is bound by those rules.
*Make an appointment for one-on-one time with each child. It doesn't have to be in the same day & can be as short as 15 minutes. It doesn't have to be anything special, either. You could work on a puzzle together or play a game. The point it so solidify your relationship with the kid one-on-one.
*Get the kids involved in non-competitive group activities like Lego, or Play Doh, or cookie baking, etc. Something where they can be together but not compete.
Remember that kids of different ages are at different developmental stages. You can't expect a 3-year old to understand the same things as an 8-year old. And the older child needs to understand the limitations of the little one.

See some of the measures in Point #2. Also, be aware that spending more time with one child than another exacerbates the rivalry. If Dad is always with Junior & Mom is always with Sissy, mix it up.
Conflicts are opportunities to learn how to work things out. They learn this at home.
When they're fighting, stop the fight & make them relive it. Help them come up with ways they could have resolved the situation peacefully. Let them learn from it. - Sometimes you can use them as Assertiveness Training. For example, big kid hits little kid. Take the little one aside & give her the words she can use to express her feelings to the bigger one. "If you hit me, you hurt me & House Rules say 'No hitting.'"

Remember, too, that as parents we need to sometimes explain our behavior & apologize for it. For example, "I'm sorry I yelled. I was just so frustrated that you didn't hang up your coat & I get tired of doing it. How can we help you hang up your coat more often?" Make them part of the problem-solving.


Again, I just thought this stuff was interesting. One cool fact: this lady said that 80% of the people who attend these workshops have a 3 to 3-1/2 year old at home. :)))

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