Promoting Good Sibling Relationships

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Help the kids in your house get along better with the following tips.

1. Give your kids an outlet. Talk with them about how their relationships with brothers and sisters are going. Encourage them to share with you the feelings their siblings create in them.

2. Accept and validate all feelings, especially negative ones (jealousy, anger etc). Releasing bad feelings allows for good ones.

3. Help your kids understand the causes of their feelings (i.e. why they got so upset with a brother or sister).

4. Teach self-assertion & problem solving instead of running to Mom and Dad to solve issues. Use the ‘2-Step Plan’ i.e. step 1: tell your brother or sister that you don’t like what they’re doing. Step 2: if they don’t stop, get adult help.

5. Praise flexibility, generosity and compromise between your kids.

6. Focus on cooperation instead of competition. Teach them about win-win compromises.

7. Acknowledge each child for his or her individual traits and contributions—don’t compare.

8. Don’t spend your energy trying to make things exactly “fair.” Help your kids understand ‘fair but not equal,’ meaning that the things they get and the things you ask them to do will be based on individual ability and temperament.

9. Don’t lock your kids into narrow roles (i.e. ‘the good kid, the silly one, the peacemaker, the difficult one’). Help them experience many roles in the family.

10. Have consistent rules for safety of all family members.

11. Balance attention and ‘special time’ for each child i.e. create positive experiences with all your kids.

12. Don’t model or expect perfection. Use mistakes as chances to learn.

13. Focus on siblings’ similarities instead of differences. Help them notice what they have in common.

14. Create a family identity by working together and having fun together.

15. Use family meetings to discuss each person’s experience of family life and to problem-solve and make group rules.

16. Get help if things seem too off track. Especially if you had a difficult childhood—that can make parenting a lot harder and more confusing.

For much more information on creating harmony in family life, see Ch. 10 in Noah’s book, Better Behavior: Helping Kids Create Change and Improve Relationships.