by Meg Akabas, for GalTime.com
“Mommy, Ava pushed me!”
“Jake is bothering me again!”
“Can’t you get Alex to stop annoying me, Dad?”
If you're a parent with more than one child, you've probably heard these kinds of protests from the kids. And, to be sure, at the top of the list of common parenting obstacles is lack of harmony in the home. I’m often asked, “Is it even possible to have children who don’t fight with each other?”
The answer is “yes!” Parents can and should work to foster respectful and pleasant relationships among siblings. After all, there are many difficulties and unpleasant situations our children will have to face in the big, wide world as they grow; their family should be a source of calm and safety on which they can always rely. Being able to get along well, not just with their parents, but also with brothers and sisters, is important for a child’s sense of security, self-esteem and healthy emotional development.
You may be thinking “my children are too far apart in age,” or “they are too different in personality and interests” to get along. But, the fact is that kids can develop wonderful relationships even with siblings with whom they seem to have nothing in common and whose temperaments are polar opposites.
The process of nurturing respectful relationships, however, almost always requires intention and effort. Here are four things parents can do to proactively help siblings get along.
Spend plenty of time with each child individually
You can help reduce the feelings of sibling rivalry by offering your attention to children individually. This is a critical step and I encourage parents to plan an activity with each child that provides special shared time with only that child. Don’t leave this up to chance; schedule regular undistracted time alone suited to each child’s particular interests, whether it’s baking together once a week, taking a bike ride on Sunday mornings or having a regular movie date each month.
Set family respect rules (and consequences)