Several people have told me that my children are strange.
My children do not bicker.
We can go a long road trip with absolutely no fighting in the backseat. They share their toys and play games together.
I have three children – my son is 18 months older than my daughter, and there is a 6-year difference between my daughter and my youngest girl. We have the experience of having two children close in age, as well as having two with a bigger age difference. The three of them all get along pretty well.
People ask me how it is that my children do not quarrel. I understand that every family dynamics is different, and every child has a different temperament. I can offer some advice here to deal with sibling quarrels based on my experiences and observations.
Parents often approach this sibling fighting problem on the defensive. When they fighting starts, they react. But the best defense is a good offense, they say.
What is a good offense in this situation? The offense is to work on promoting positive feelings between siblings, and to remove stimulants that tend to irritate the situations that causes fighting.
First, I think bickering does not necessarily mean sibling relationships are not good. Sure, it probably isn’t ideal. But when you consider the circumstances, we really shouldn’t be surprised. When different personalities are forced to live under one roof, some fighting is inevitable. After all, your kids didn’t choose to live together, did they? Even when you choose your own roommate, you had roommate problems, didn’t you? Yet, you and your roommate can remain friends, and you might even be good friends even though you have disagreements. So it is with our children. They might fight, but if they generally get along, it’s not a big problem.
If the quarrellings look more or less “innocent” among your kids – that is not with downright hatred and destructiveness – siblings fighting could be a part of the growing up together experience. They fight, they play, they fight again, and play together again. It’s very irritating to the parents, but there is no real harm. When you see that they are just annoying each other, the parents should not interfere. Children can be pretty resourceful and fair when left to work out their own problems. This teaches them conflict resolution skills and all that good stuff.
With that said, here are some ways to take the offense:
DO model respect for each child. Don’t treat them like they are “just kids.” As you model listening to the concerns of each child, speaking to them with kindness an d gentleness, and giving them compliments for little things they do, they will pick up the positive attitude from you.
DO allow each child some space of their own where the other siblings are not allowed to interfere. They can each have a corner of space in the room if they share a room. Or the space can be their own desk. The other siblings need to have a clear understanding of the consequences if they violate another person’s space for any reason. I personally do not believe in allowing a child their entire room as their private space. The whole house belongs to everyone in the family. Just as the kids are allowed into my bedroom freely, the children’s bedrooms should be accessible. But they are allowed a space, or a desk in their room that should not be touched by siblings.
DO take each child out by himself for a special outing with you without the others around. Rotate the schedule regularly. This way they have your full attention once in a while where they don’t have to compete for attention.
DON’T ever compare one with the other. You’ve probably been told not to say things like, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” Our tendency to compare is probably more subtle. Comments like “Do your homework nicely like your brother is doing.” or “Why don’t you help your dad wash your car like your brother is doing?” may give the wrong impression. You can expect a certain behavior from your child whether or not the other is doing it, so stay away from comparisons like those. The problem is, the comparison starts in our minds. We inadvertently compare one child with another, and it probably shows in our attitude and action in a subconscious way. Work on catching yourself with those comparing thoughts. The minute you begin to think it, immediately turn that thought around and think of something positive about both children.
DON’T ever take sides. Parents have a tendency to side with the younger one or the underdog. Children are smart, and they will know how to manipulate you. Favoritism always drives a wedge between siblings.
DON’T force children to share everything. Allow them to have some things that are off limits to the others. If they got a special toy, or a treasured pen, the others don’t need to have a turn playing with it.
I am sure you also have experiences to share. What have you found to work in building good relationship among siblings? Leave a comment.