Friction between siblings is natural to a certain extent.
It usually begins when they are small and must learn to share. They share toys, space and attention from their parents. Sharing and getting along with others requires many skills such as taking turns, respecting other’s belongings and space, and being kind to name a few.
This is a lesson that needs to be revisited regularly.
Fast forward and these little ones are 12- and 14-years-old and, at times, can’t seem to stand one another. They invade one another’s space and are frequently critical of the other’s friends, of their appearance and of their opinions. Here are a few tips for building strong relationships between siblings:
• Have each one write a list of the other’s talents and good qualities.
• Challenge them to compliment the other at least once a day (sincerely not sarcastically).
• Assign chores to complete together in the home such as preparing dinner or unloading the dishwasher.
• Encourage them to share space by sitting together during meals or watching a show together.
• Encourage problem-solving together (present them with a conflict and monitor the process to reach a solution).
When an argument begins or a harsh voice is used, intervene immediately and insist a sincere apology be delivered. Here are the steps for delivering a strong apology:
1. Look at the person you are apologizing to.
2. Say what you are sorry about. (I am sorry for arguing with you about...)
3. Make a follow–up statement (Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?)
4. Thank the person for listening. (Even if they didn’t accept your apology)
Deliver clear expectations for how to handle conflicts. Set these expectations up at a neutral time when no conflicts are occurring. Let kids know that changes are needed in the family and they will begin immediately. If things do not improve with how everyone gets along over the next two weeks, let them know you will revisit this issue and take more restrictive measures, which could involve becoming roommates.
Enforce changes, monitor closely and reinforce small improvements. You are on the way to being “one big happy family!”
Pat Thomas has more than 30 years of experience working with children and families from many cultures and in many settings around the world. She has worked is various positions at Boys Town as a Family-Teacher, Trainer, and Hotline counselor. Since 2010, Pat has shared her experiences with families who call the Nebraska Family Helpline.