Do your kids fight? Did you know that sibling bullying may have a more negative impact on our long-term emotional health than schoolyard bullying does? This is a conclusion of a recent Oxford University study which makes perfect sense! Would you want your children to suffer long-term mental health issues? You can gain control over the fighting. I know, I’ve done it with my kids.
After suffering from being bullied myself as the youngest of four kids, it was a priority for me that my kids be friends, kind to each other, and be each other’s greatest cheerleaders. They are now sixteen and seventeen and I could count on both hands how many times they have fought throughout their lives. The techniques I used to make them best friends worked better than expected, so I want to help bring peace and love to your home too by sharing these ideas that worked for us.
As parents we can do a lot to prevent fighting and not just take the easy way (which is the more frustrating way anyway) of just chalking fighting up to sibling rivalry. In fact, I don’t ever think you should pit one child against the other… it leads to resentment, not friendship. So if you want your children to annoy you by laughing together like mine do (a nice problem to have,) rather than fighting, read on.
1. Make Them Feel Loved and Valued
Make a point of telling each child that you always love them equally. Let them know there is always an arm to wrap around them when they have a problem so their most basic need for support is met. If you build a strong foundation of them feeling like they have your support and love then many of their problems aren’t problems to begin with. They become non-issues. I tell my kids every day, all day, that I love them. That is how we finish our goodbyes and goodnights. Every night I tucked the kids in when they were little and said to them “In my wildest imagination I could never have dreamed up a more perfect little boy/girl.” Use your own words but let them know they are valued daily. If that is what they think you see, then that is what they will become. So watch carefully what you tell them you see in them. You could potentially be creating big problems by pointing out there faults all the time.
2. Reward Them When They are Nice to Each Other
Encourage them to do something nice for their sibling and then make a big deal in front of them and the sibling that they were nice to. When my kids were little I used to say in a high, cute voice “oh, that made Mummy’s heart go singy, dingy, lingy, that was so sweet to do that for your brother/sister.” Yes, I’m completely goofy. Yes, I know you’re not “supposed” to use a baby voice when they are little, but quite frankly, I think that is BS. When I use a sing song tone that vibrates, it is like it plugs directly into their souls and becomes part of their DNA. It gets their attention. I also tell the child receiving the nice gesture how lucky they are to have a sibling that takes such great care of them. It validates both parties and develops a special bond between them.
3. Don’t Allow any Negative Talk or Behavior Towards Other Siblings
We have a hard and fast rule that we do not tolerate anyone talking poorly of their siblings. A really disappointed look and a reminder of the rules usually solves this issue.
4. Teach Them to Talk Nicely to Each Other
If you consider that your relationships with your siblings began when you were about two, you can understand the almost two-year-old-like behavior between your kids fighting even when they are older. Be conscious of how these young relationships are developing. Focus on them talking nicely to each other from the beginning. For example if one said to the other “get out of my way” when they were trying to watch TV, it would lead to a resentful sibling who would want to fight. Instead, explain in a disappointed voice that we don’t talk like that to each other. We say “excuse me buddy, I can’t see the TV.” Relationships are built on daily interaction so protect that interaction with all your heart and your family will enjoy more peace and joy.
5. Create Personal Bubbles
Many fights start from them infringing on each other’s rights whether that is by touching each other, grabbing something off the other, or invading their personal territory like their room. So we started a “personal bubble” zone that they each had to respect. They couldn’t just rough up the others hair, grab their toys or go in their room. A person’s space and rights have to have clear boundaries and be respected at all costs. Now if they are playing a game, then that of course is different unless you think a fight is inevitable when they take the game too far.
6. If One Gets Something, Celebrate it, Don’t Set Them Up to Think They Should Get Something too
We want to create an environment where they celebrate each other’s successes and achievements, not feel like they need to get something too. That creates resentment and that isn’t how life works anyway. You don’t have to get them both presents at the same time. You can teach them they their good luck comes in different ways, at different times. Make a big deal about them celebrating and congratulating their sibling so they do get a reward, your love and admiration.
7. Be Each Other’s Greatest Cheerleaders
Encourage them to always talk highly of each other at home, around friends and in public, you’ve no idea what that does for their self-esteem. As an example, my daughter Maddie made a point to often walk down freshman hall at their high school as a sophomore with all her cute friends to hug and fuss over her brother Brandon so he would look like the cool guy. She deliberately wanted to set him up for success and I was so excited with her for doing that. If they are best friends they like doing this for each other.
So, I hope some, or all, of these methods that worked for our family, will work for yours. It is so sweet having a home full of loving and supportive people instead of feeling like you have to come home to a war zone. With peace and love at home your children can excel more instead of wasting energy on the very basic need of finding love and support. Goodluck!