Siblings are a blessing to have, and building a strong relationship from the start is important for the future development of the children as individuals, but the whole family as well. It’s one more task busy parents have to do right and ensure their kids make that unbreakable bond, that will last a lifetime.
When you think you are more of a judge than a parent, make sure to be a fair one and nurture the love, respect, and acceptance for both or more of your children. There are certain ways of doing so that proved to be with a better outcome, and we will go through them all in this article.
Why sibling quarrel?
Siblings quarrel all the time, and that is the natural and common behavior that we can learn from. Before finding out how to help in forming a strong relationship in the family, we first have to see what are the main problems we are dealing with and why that relationship even needs to be built. As parents, we are stretched out with many responsibilities, like work, money, bills, health, shopping, meals, assignments, hygiene, and many more. Taking care of the essential needs of children is a full-time job, so we sometimes take for granted all the relationships in the family, thinking they will be just fine as they are.
To better understand sibling relations, we have to see what the baseline problems are that may occur and learn from them. To make these problems into life lessons and turn negative situations to our advantage.
Different ages and needs
Children in different age groups have different needs and views of the world. While toddlers are generally selfish, older children share their belongings. They may see the acting of toddlers as bad and you allowing it may cause a disturbance. Older children and teenagers are independent and may feel constricted by family obligations and thus rebel.
Just because two people share parents and home doesn’t mean they are the same individuals. Children can be and often are total opposites of one another. This will mean that they will have to learn to get along and accept each other. Just like adults, they get along better with some people and not so much with others. In time and with the effort they can learn to accept each other just the way they are.
Being in different age groups, sex, and two individuals, children like adults have different interests and hobbies. Some will like cars, others dolls, costumes, sports, etc. There can be some quarreling about what to do, especially when they have to be together, for example, on vacation. Being creative and incorporating their interests will be your job as a parent, in the beginning, before they learn how to make compromises. Some games like “Scavenger Hunt Card Game for Kids” would be a wise thing to have on the go and in the car, for those long trips. It’s a super fun activity that they can do together and learn about the outside world at the same time.
Keep in mind, that before a sibling came, your firstborn was an only child. It will take some time to be confident enough not to see your brother or sister as competition. They are wired to want success and your approval, so if someone else gets there first, there is room for trouble. Teaching children to be happy for the success of others is a good way to build their confidence, while at the same time build a strong relationship between siblings. Competition can always be turned into something beneficial and make children strive to be successful even more. There are a few studies that suggest that birth order will determine the dynamics in the family and sibling competition because firstborn is usually more responsible one and later sibling are more agreeable ones.
There are a few techniques you can try to add to your daily routine to make life easier on one hand and to make sure your children are going to form strong and nurturing relationships that will last a lifetime. These relationships can influence all aspects of their life like partners, academic success, jobs, and families and thus deserve to be completely researched and practiced.
How do you set a good example for your child?
Teaching by example is the most efficient way to convey good behavior to your children. Like any other parenting method you want to practice, it’s always best to start from yourself and show your children what you want, rather than telling them. Children are more equipped to pay attention to behaviors than words, as we often say too much and confuse them. Actions are a much simpler way of understanding, and you don’t even have to have language skills to show love, respect, and devotion. To understand better, imagine talking to a screaming baby about affection and showing affection. The latter is always a well-understood choice. Even infants with no language skills will feel love and show discontent.
So, to begin a beautiful friendship between your children, you need to show them the relation between you and your siblings. Aspire to be a role model for desired behavior and demonstrate often how good your relationship with brothers and sisters is. Focus on the outcome, or rather how the harmonic relationship makes you feel.
For example: Call your sister on the phone while your children are present, be supportive, laugh, and tell her how much she means to you. You may even exaggerate a bit, for better effect. If you find yourself in a middle of a fight with your sibling, try to show and teach understanding and acceptance, to promote the same thing in your children. The reality is that we are going to fight with our siblings, but we will never deny them our love and support.
Always be on the lookout for your display of emotions, positive or negative, and how your children react to that. It’s more common for children from big and supportive families to have stronger relationships later in life, not only with their siblings but in general.
Imitation is the way we learn the best, just look at any other animal or better yet primates. “Monkey sees, monkey do” is true for people as well. It’s common for younger siblings to imitate and act like the older ones, so keep that in mind while working on their relationship. If you want to implement an idea, start with one kid and it will pass on to the others.
What is the significance of the shared experience?
Shared experience is doing something with your siblings and thus forming an unbreakable bond. Siblings can and will affect the development of each other, but more importantly, the parent has to promote good relations, because otherwise there is the enhanced risk of behavioral problems. Younger siblings learn from parents in the first place, but from older siblings as well, but older siblings learn from younger ones too.
To make sure they are learning the right things, like proper communication, affection, and support, they should first form a better bond and with that to aspire to behave more alike. There is nothing better than bonding over shared experiences, were dealing with problems or creating beautiful memories strengthens the connection between children.
This will mean that you know your children individually, as you already do of course, and then think of a perfect way to combine their hobbies or playtime. If you can get some oxytocin producing while doing so, like laughing, dancing, being outdoor, then the bond will form even stronger. Shared experiences with an oxytocin rise are a proven way of forming long-term and healthy relations.
A family vacation is a great opportunity to build good relations and strong affection because this is the time the whole family is relaxed and happy, focused mainly on the time spent together. Simple memories like playing in the sand, learning how to swim, taking long walks will improve and strengthen the bond between children based on lifelong memories.
But, when you are unable to create those monumental events, try to incorporate little ones every day. Children that are in the approximately same age group usually have some common interest, and this is the way to build trust and bond. Maybe they both love to play pretend and a few costume parties will go a long way and make a good base for the rest of their life. A family game night is also a good option and some games like “Do you know your family?” is a great one because you have the chance to get to know each other better and participate in fun challenges.
We see our siblings as rivals sometimes, but we have to remember that this relationship, even though has a bloodline relation in it, is primarily friendship. To become good and trustworthy friends, children have to have the opportunity to get to know each other on a much deeper level. Solving problems or just playing will add a tremendous effect in the long run, so make sure to encourage playing together and not interrupt when they are getting along. Giving them a task that they can solve together is also a good way to promote teamwork and the ability to count on each other.
How do I teach my child to care?
Brothers and sisters fight all the time, but they are usually a united front when they want or need something from the parents. That is telling us that cooperation is possible if both sides have something to gain. But that can also be a good starting point for the next step in your parenting practice and motivate you to discover ways where they are on each other’s side no matter what the situation is.
Siblings should learn from a young age that taking care of family always comes first. You can accomplish this from the first day when the younger sibling arrives from the hospital, by including the older sibling in all the care tasks. Yes, it will take more time to change a diaper on a baby with a toddler helper, but you will teach your older child how to take care of the younger from day one. They will in return feel proud to be able to do things grownups do and willing to help even more.
Vice versa, you can insist that every family member pays attention and share their compassion with a member in need. Let’s say someone got hurt or had a bad day, encouraging other siblings to participate in making them better will produce loving and caring relations. All of that is on the basic chemistry level, producing oxytocin is also known as the bonding hormone.
It’s the safety of the family’s nest you want to incorporate into their everyday life, so when they do eventually leave the said nest, they will always have a safe harbor in each other. You will also feel better knowing they have each other’s back even when you are not there. Implementing the need to look out for family members will go a long way because they will feel safe and protective at the same time.
Many studies have shown that siblings are an important part of development in children and adults, so important that they shape the way we are formed. Siblings can affect the outcome of each other’s lives and thus their relationship should be taken seriously.
How do you treat siblings equally?
To treat siblings equally means that you are giving the same amount of love, affection, and emotion to every child. To be equal – such a simple phrase with such a powerful meaning, don’t you agree? As parents, we strive to be fair and compassionate, while at the same time we would love for everyone to be happy. Sometimes, even with great effort on our part, we tend to treat children differently. We might even miss it, but other siblings will not, and there lies the problem.
Competition and rivalry are normal and healthy in small dosages. Depending on the temperament of children, some will feel offended if the other one has special treatment. This is most common in families where one of the children has special needs or is gravely ill. The rest of the family will naturally feel neglected and even jealous.
This can lead to feelings of guilt and resentment, so choose your battles wisely. It’s completely fine to give more attention to children who need it more, but remember to allow communication and big feelings that other siblings have and talk to them regularly. Acknowledging their feeling is the first step towards building good relationships. A wide range of human emotions is sometimes hard to understand, but communication is the key. It’s good to know that you are not alone, and maybe a book on this subject with practical examples would help “Oh Brother! Growing Up with a Special Needs Sibling”.
It’s important to remember that any situation can be used to learn from it, and as an adult teach your children the appropriate behavior. The good thing is that even if one of the children has special needs, that can often lead to a positive spillover effect. This is simply put a good impact on the children who don’t have special needs and live in a family that has a child with special needs.
How do you build a strong bond between siblings?
By following a few simple steps and implement them in your everyday life, you will build a strong bond between siblings. Being a parent to one child can be demanding, but being a parent to multiple children will make things even harder sometimes. Siblings, no matter how close, well behaved, and loved will fight from time to time, and that is the reality. If no one is getting physically hurt, your initial reaction should always be to stay back and wait. For them, to develop and grow together, some disagreements have to occur.
Always keep in mind that they are individuals and that they are not obligated to go along on every subject. Occasional fights can be a good thing and a sign that strong personalities are formed, and no one is backing up. It’s crucial to teach them that there should be a limit that can’t be crossed, and that disagreement is not a bad thing. Being too strict when it comes to fights can lead to resentment and secluded emotions that can on the other hand be projected negatively on the other sibling. When you intervene, you have to take somebody’s side and that can be a problem if you don’t know every detail that led to the argument. If the intervention is necessary, stay calm and don’t defend or attack anybody. Use this opportunity to teach them how to resolve conformations with communication.
It’s often the lack of communication and assumption that someone else knows what we want or think that leads to quarreling. Being able to express your feelings and know that you are not going to get ridiculed is the only viable solution.
Aim for simple, yet good lessons for your children and implement the next few suggestions:
To get along with someone you don’t have to agree with them on everything, you don’t even have to have shared interests. For a strong and lasting bond, respect is the crucial thing your children have to learn. They need to understand that it’s ok not to agree as long as no one is getting hurt. Respecting choices, boundaries, and opinions is the only way to harmonic relations.
Children will learn in time and with the experience that we are all different. As they grow up and become adults, they will feel the need to be accepted as they are. If you practice this acceptance from the start, they will feel safe to show their true potential and they will support others in their efforts. This means that even if they don’t agree with a choice their sibling made, whether it is about life, family, friends, school, sexual orientations, they will accept them as they are and support their life as it is.
This doesn’t mean that they can’t speak up or say that they don’t agree, but rather embrace the qualities of one another and cherish the time spent together.
As mentioned above, caring for your sibling is a trait that can be learned. We are born selfish and self-orientated, but we learn that it feels better to share experiences and things. People have that “sharing for the benefit of the entire human race” integrated into our DNA, and we feel good when someone else feels good.
That feeling comes in time, and patience is needed when children are learning how to take care of themselves while taking care of the family. Caring for someone else will mean that you will suffer from time to time, but on the other hand, you will have a support system when you need one.
Considering that we, as a human race, are pretty evolved when it comes to communication, it often is the main problem. Instead of being a problem, make it the solution to any disagreement. Teach your children how to remain calm and take a step back, allowing the other person to talk and say what’s bothering them. This way we often see how trivial and funny the situation is and that big fights are the result of a single, small misunderstanding.
To do so, you will have to remain calm yourself, and that sometimes just doesn’t happen. In the event where you lose your temper and react dramatically, own your mistakes and apologize. Parents rarely apologize to their children, led with an old understanding of dominance and parenting styles, but saying that you are wrong and sorry will encourage your children to do the same. This can make a massive difference in the relationships between siblings now and in the future.
Going through life’s turmoil is always easier with a supportive person by your side, and that is why there are so many support groups around. But imagine your children being there for one another, no matter how difficult or beautiful life turns out to be. Imagine their little personal support team ready to be there for one another.
That is something worth remembering, while you struggle to teach them to get along better. It may be exhausting to witness endless fights, crying, and blaming each other, but you are not alone. Every parent goes through the same things every day, but by using these tools you can make sure to get the best result from hard situations.
Sulloway, Frank J. “Birth order, sibling competition, and human behavior.” Conceptual challenges in evolutionary psychology. Springer, Dordrecht, 2001. 39-83. ↑
Abramovitch, Rona, Carl Corter, and Bella Lando. “Sibling interaction in the home.” Child development (1979): 997-1003. ↑
Brody, Gene H. “Siblings’ direct and indirect contributions to child development.” Current directions in psychological science 13.3 (2004): 124-126. ↑
Bank, Stephen P., and Michael D. Kahn. The sibling bond. Basic Books, 1997. ↑
Gottfried, Michael A., and Juliana McGene. “The spillover effects of having a sibling with special educational needs.” The Journal of Educational Research 106.3 (2013): 197-215. ↑