Minimize sibling rivalry with eight practical tips for preventing fights and fostering healthy, harmonious family relationships.
- spending special time with each child regularly
- giving plenty of hugs and smiles to everyone
- trying not to compare children with each other.
- Involve children in setting up rules.
- Write rules that include positive statements about how you want to treat each other.
- Put a copy of your house rules on the fridge or somewhere everyone can see them.
- Follow through every time children bend or break the rules.
- Television: Samantha chooses the program from 6.30-7 pm. Jake chooses from 7.30-8 pm
- Games: Jake chooses on Saturdays, Samantha chooses on Sundays.
- Bathroom: Jake uses the bathroom first in the morning, then Samantha.
- Chores: Samantha and Jake take it in turns to do the chores
- ‘I really like the way you’re both taking turns on the trampoline.’
- ‘You’re all sharing and playing really nicely together.’
- ‘Hey, you worked out that problem really well. How about we celebrate with a movie tonight?’
- Step in with ideas as soon as you see that children are finding it hard to work things out.
- Talk things over later. With older children, working out a blame-free solution afterwards will make the fight less likely to happen again.
- Help children find ways to express upset or angry feelings through calm words or positive activities.
- Teach and model the social skill of ‘respectful disagreeing’. This involves saying something that you can both agree on, then saying what you don’t agree on.
- Make sure there are enough toys for everyone, so children can play together without always having to take turns.
- Distract children or change the environment if you sense a fight coming.
- If you need to make a phone call, set children up with an activity that will keep them interested.
At the supermarket
- Create a special rule. For example, ‘No fights at the supermarket means we’ll go to the park after we get home’.
- Ask children to hold onto opposite sides of the shopping trolley.
- If supermarket fights are very bad, see whether you can leave one of the children with a friend or family member while you shop.
Out and about
- Distract children if you sense a fight coming.
- On public transport, park yourself or a pram between children.
In the car
- If there’s a spare seat in the back, sit children on either side of it. Or put a grown-up or older child between the children most likely to fight.
- If your oldest child is old enough, put them in the front seat.
- Let children go if they’re trying to work things out. Talking, debating and even arguing are all signs that children are trying to work things out.
- Give some tips. A few well-placed suggestions might be all children need. For example, ‘Do you think that’s the best tone of voice right now?’
- Give friendly reminders about house rules, what you expect and what will happen if a fight breaks out. For example, ‘Remember we all speak nicely’.