National Siblings Day falls annually on April 10th in the United States. About 80% of children in the United States have at least one sibling. Though children may grow up in the same family, their experiences will vary. Here are some ways to help keep the peace:
- Individualize their Needs: Your children have different personalities, likes, dislikes, wants, and needs. Recognizing and celebrating these differences will make them less likely to compete for attention. Comparing children with each other fosters a competitive nature. Encouraging children to share parts of their day and their feelings will add value to each individual relationship.
- Set Simple and Clear Rules: Keeping rules clear and simple will help make them easy to remember. For example: “We do not hit” or “We do not yell” sets a clear message in less than five words. Having a family discussion to set up the rules will make children more likely to follow them. After the meeting, hang them in an accessible place (like the refrigerator) for children to view the rules. Rules should not be a secret or a surprise.
- Praise Good Behavior: Siblings will fight, but it is important to recognize good behavior when you see it. For example: when siblings share a toy without you asking or when they share food at the table. If good behavior is not recognized, children will have trouble identifying what good behavior looks like.
- Practice what you Preach: If one of the rules is “We do not yell,” then you also should not yell. Children mimic behavior and learn words they hear in the background. Be mindful of the words you speak and the actions you model.
- Keep Conversations Private: There are some conversations that will need to be private. One of your children will tell you something in confidence and not want their brother/sister to know. Breaking that trust could result in retaliation or resentment against the other sibling. Another example of a private conversation could be punishment conversations. To avoid embarrassment and to get honest answers from your child, asking “Why did you do that?” and having conversations about hitting can be best handled in privately.
- But who gets to sit in the front seat? In my house, I was born on an odd day and my sister was born on an even day. This was how we settled most arguments. I got to sit in the front seat of the car on odd days, my sister on even days. The same result for picking take-out (if no peaceful resolution could be made). If there are more children, a rotation schedule that is visible in the house can be made.
Not all families are the same, and not all siblings have the same dynamic. A lot of the time, it’s just about using your best judgment. As siblings grow older they may still argue – but the reasoning and negotiation skills they learned during childhood can help them through difficult times.