Do your kids fight? Ya, mine too; we all go through it. As a young parent, I vividly recall the frustration of sibling rivalry. It felt constant and was exhausting. Now, with older kids, I realize how sibling conflict sculpts our rough edges and prepares kids for a lifetime of conflict management. The conflict management skills honed in our families can provide powerful lifelong social skills. I wish I had learned earlier on about good conflict skills, I really like how Peace Maker teaches these.
Our friends at Connected Families are great at discussing practical strategy.
They even offer a course on sibling rivalry.
While my kids were busy fighting, I would hear stories from friends, which caused my ‘green monster’ (aka, envy) to rise. One friend often told stories featuring her kids going out of their way to engage siblings by taking them for a treat or even by including them on a date. Another friend chimed in about her kids begging for family time. Huh?! Not my kids, I just sat there mute wondering, “What am I doing wrong?”
Intentionally Creating Connection
Here are three ideas we’ve used at different stages to foster sibling connection as well as manage sibling conflict. When our kids were quite young we had a “special plate” at supper. Each family member took turns using the unique plate. Whoever had the “special plate” received positive affirmation from everyone at the table. The kids LOVED it! Appreciation and affirmation go a long way. These family moments are special and teach kids to look for the good in others and express it.
Supporting Each Other
As the kids got a bit older, as time allows, we support one another by attending important events, like sports, a play, or an award. Recently, my youngest daughter had a competition that was really important to her. I sent the dates to my busy young adults and didn’t expect all to make it, however they each (including my son’s girlfriend) cleared their calendars to come watch her compete. Given the smile on her face, this effort was MUCH appreciated. This support building, eventually pays off for our achievements as parents as well. I went back to school as a mature student and recently graduated.
These supportive family expressions are very meaningful, in fact, I must admit I am teary eyed as I write. Teary with proud positive emotion. By the way, in years gone by, the tears weren’t always positive, but the time spent teaching values and imparting connection has paid off, eventually.
Our other method of encouraging sibling connection we call “sibling time”. Upon the oldest driving, I fund activity time for the siblings. The rules are simple, only siblings in attendance, and all must agree on the activity (preferably without fighting). The benefits? They collaborate, “If we go together, mom will pay!” They get creative, um. . . cause 20 bucks doesn’t go too far nowadays, and they connect, building sibling memories.
Those are a few ideas we’ve tried, seemingly, the efforts have paid off, my kids now choose to spend time together, enjoy each other, still fight, say it straight (a little too straight at times), and pitch in where needed to enable each other. All the ‘real’ stuff of family life. They even do outings together, (ahem, a very recent development, yesterday) without the “mom will pay!” Amazing! I never could have imagined the extent this would warm my mother’s heart. It’s not always wonderful, cause that’s not real life (at least in our family), but we’ll take it! And celebrate the success!