Mommy, she POINTED at me!
Mommy, he’s LOOKING at me funny!
Mommy, she TOUCHED me…
Do any of you wake up and feel like your kids are already at each other’s throats even before their feet hit the ground? If you have more than one child in the house, you probably understand how I feel about the daily struggle of sibling rivalry. Siblings can be the best of friends in one moment and enemies minutes later!
Before COVID-19, the daily bickering and togetherness was lessened with the distraction of school, play dates, and summer camps. But with the canceling of all of these activities, the constant fighting and aggravating each other has made our home feel like a battlefield. My husband and I have become more like referees instead of parents.
We have tried to use the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to give our children the tools to calmly resolve their issues, instead of fighting with each other. Here are some of the things we have tried to incorporate in dealing with sibling rivalry and hoping to restore the peace.
Setting Clear Rules and Being Consistent
Clear and concise rules help everyone know what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Having a family “command center” that displays the rules makes it easier for our children to know what is expected of them. Of course, they still forget and end up breaking a rule, but it is important to follow through and be consistent with the consequences.
Praise the Good Behavior
We have learned that focusing on the positive and letting them know specifically what they are doing well have helped the good behavior to continue. We make it a point to stop and recognize when they are playing nicely together, saying things like “Great job guys, I see that you are taking turns and playing together” or “I like how you are helping your brother set the table.” It is important to encourage the behavior that we want to see while shifting the attention away from the argument over the box of crayons.
Reward vs. Consequence
Taking a cue from our children’s school, we have designed a good behavior system that allows the kids to “cash” in for special things. We call this system “Boudreaux Beans.” We have a mason jar for each child that sits on the kitchen counter. When they do something the first time they are asked, if they help set the table, if they let their sibling go first, if they use manners, or if they simply are just being nice to one another – they get a bean in their jar. They are then allowed to trade beans in for something fun. It was important to involve the kids when making the list of rewards so that it would be something to excite and motivate them. This system is still a work in progress, but the children have enjoyed counting their beans and cashing them in.
Letting them work it out
Giving siblings the opportunity to figure it out on their own, without fighting, is important. Learning to get along and work out disagreements on their own helps at home as well as with friends and classmates. My husband and I try not to intervene every time we hear the kids start to bicker with one another. We let them attempt to handle it while keeping an eye on them to prevent a full-on sibling war! We give them gentle suggestions and friendly reminders about the family rules and what will happen if their behavior towards one another escalates.
Of course, even with setting rules, praising good behavior, and adding beans to their jars, siblings are still going to argue and get under each other’s skin. Sibling rivalry will always be a part of growing up. Hopefully, they will continue to learn problem-solving tactics and eventually gain mutual respect for each other, along with (gasp!) a possible friendship!
For families with multiple children, what are some tactics you use to keep the peace in the house?