Parenting Vivian | 03 Mar 2011 03:52 pm

Guiding Siblings to Play Nicely Together

Having more than one child will change the family dynamic in so many interesting ways. In addition to being a mother or a father, a parent will find themselves acting as referee or police officer on so many occasions. There were times I truly wished I had a whistle I could blow to signal the combatants to go to their respective corners for a rest. A parent of two or more children will find themselves having to judge situations and find solutions when it is impossible to know all the facts.

A parent who needs to mediate a situation must be calm. If the children are already crying and screaming over some injustice, an angry parent will not be a soothing influence. The children need to see an example of self-control. Also, all parties need to be heard without feeling intimidated.

It is best if the children can suggest their own solutions to a problem. Sometimes when given the space and time to calm down, they can come up with some good compromises. Sometimes a timer can be used to aid sharing or turn-taking. Sometimes suggesting alternative toys to one or both sides helps. Sometimes a parent just needs to step in and change the whole activity. Sometimes children are put in time-out a bit too quickly, when it is a bit easier for everyone if the coveted toy is given a time-out instead.

Not all situations will require a parent to interfere. Over time children should be encouraged to resolve their own differences. Once they have been given examples of compromise and turn-taking in other situations where the parent helped, they will soon be able to come up with solutions of their own.

If siblings do not come for help to a parent to resolve problem and if they begin to resort to pushing, hitting or name calling, the children need to be stopped. Parents must teach that pushing, hitting and name calling are not acceptable behavior in any circumstance. These methods do not solve problems and they only cause hurt. Teach your children to use words instead of fists, and to use words that help and not hurt.

Try never to compare your kids to each other. You do not want one child feeling they are inferior to their sibling in some way. Everyone has their faults and strengths, but no one likes to hear about it in connection with what their sibling can do well. As parents we need to be perceived as nonpartisan by all our children.

Siblings sometimes just need a little time and space without the other. Sometimes separate play areas can be arranged temporarily. It is also good if one sibling can leave the house for a few hours with the other parent or a grandparent. Be sure all siblings get a break on occasion with some special adult in their lives.

Try to let all sides in a sibling conflict know that you are giving them a fair hearing. Set an example of a calm demeanor and give suggestions on how to resolve the problem. Before long your children will be working out their own difficulties and getting along better with everyone.

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