Written by Dawn Alsept
Sibling spats are no joke. If you have ever heard two siblings going at it, it is not unlike a feral cat fight with a dash of rabid rage thrown in. It would seem that those we love the most, or in some cases, those who live under the same roof as we do, can illicit the strongest of reactions, sometimes for the smallest infraction.
We would like to think that our homes are our refuge and that though the world may swirl with a vast whirlpool of unkindness about us, our homes should exude love and contentment. When in the midst of the battle, you are the parent who is struggling to maintain a white flag zone, how do you raise kids who actually like each other?
From a young age, teach your child to think outside of themselves. This exercise usually happens when one of our children has infringed upon a sibling and as part of the process we chat about how it would feel to be the sibling who was wronged. For example, my 6-year-old throws a toy at his 4-year-old sibling during a moment of extreme frustration (thankfully he has bad aim) and we have to have some words about his actions.
During this exchange, I also give him a scenario where something similar either has happened to him and he was wronged or I give a scenario where he could imagine something similar happening and we talk about how he would feel in his brother’s shoes. This exercise forces your child to realize that their sibling has feelings too and they would not like what happened if they were on the receiving end.
Don’t allow the hurtful words
Teens are notorious for their comebacks, their sharp tongues, and their wit, often at the expense of others. While we can easily chalk some of the things that come out of the mouths of our children as simple bantering, keep tabs on it and put the words in check when they become hurtful. This means that sometimes you have to speak up when the kids don’t even know that you have heard an exchange.
Watch the tone
As parents, we know all too well that you can say one thing and mean something totally different which becomes apparent with tone. When your children start to always become snarky and curt with one and other, check in with them to see if they realize how they are coming across. If we allow the razor toned words to cut the peace out of our homes, we perpetuate the negative.
Make them see the best
It is not uncommon in our home to spend a little time pointing out the positive attributes of family members. This is especially true if there has been a run of unkind statements going on. An example was a recent family meal where two children had been going at it off and on the entire day. These two were then told that they must tell the whole family 3 things that they liked about their sibling, 3 things that their sibling was good at, and 3 things they thought their sibling could teach them. This exercise has been known to finish off with humor and often a bit of satire to boot.
For the younger ones, it has not been uncommon in our home to require a make up hug and request for forgiveness when there has been some misgiving. However, the most comical example would have to be when there have been ongoing difficulties and the resulting punishment is for the siblings to sit next to one and other holding hands. There have even been occasions where a chore has to be completed while said handholding is still in effect, this happens to be one of the funniest memories my now older teens have of a spat they had as children.
Our children are individuals who learn by example, and ours is the most important they see. We have to set the tone for what is acceptable in our homes, in order to create the relationships that we want to see blossom.
Dawn is the homeschooling mom to 6 of God’s blessings and the wife to a husband she counts as her best friend. She and her husband enjoy life on a small family farm where they strive to grow their own food, raise their own livestock, and homestead to the best of a modern day family’s ability. Though she loved running a homesteading blog for years, at www.incidentalfarmgirl.com, she discovered a new passion with the birth of her 6th child who surprised the family with a Down Syndrome diagnosis at birth. Now she spends her free time writing, advocating, and sharing stories to bring awareness to Down Syndrome at www.cedarsstory.com.