The first rule of family fight club? Siblings love each other really!
If your children fight and argue – don’t worry. It’s normal and it doesn’t mean they won’t be best friends when they’re older. Even if they look like Tom and Jerry on a bad day, your children are programmed to compete for your attention from the start.
At a glance
- Not all siblings get along all the time - you might have to set ground rules
- Spending time one-on-one with each child can reduce rivalry
- Just because they fight often now, it doesn't mean they always will
And siblings argue safe in the knowledge all will be forgiven - because deep down they love each other very much. But they do need to learn how to calm down and resolve their differences. So here are 8 tips for helping them get along famously...
Children under 5 will model their behaviour on you, so it’s worth thinking how you and your partner argue and how constructively you resolve conflict.
Help them resolve conflict
If you always resolve your children’s conflicts for them, they won’t learn to do it themselves. Choose a time when they’re getting on and teach them a few handy skills. You could set up a fake scenario - acting it out for the under 3s, or staging a brainstorm for older children. For example, you could say: ‘What happens if one of you wants to watch TV and the other wants to watch a DVD?’ Your children can have fun brainstorming some possible solutions. Then look at the pros and cons of each one, before agreeing the best solution together. In this case, perhaps, allowing one of them half an hour of TV and the other one half an hour of DVD.
Give them 30 seconds
When you hear your children slip into Tom and Jerry mode, steer clear and give them 30 seconds to figure it out by themselves. If they resolve the issue, praise them like mad. If they don’t, follow up with suitable consequences!
Set ground rules
Start by setting ground rules about how you expect your children to respect each other’s feelings and property. Clarify who owns what, listing the things they have to share, like the TV, and things they don’t, such as personal toys and books.
Insist they’re fair about sharing things like the TV, taking turns to choose programmes. If your children follow the rules, give them lots of praise. If they don’t, it’s time for consequences again!
Give them special attention
You can reduce rivalry by spending one-on-one time with each child, as well as together as a family. Just playing a game with them for ten minutes will make them feel special and take away some of their need to compete for your attention.
Big up the sibling!
Talk positively about each sibling to the other, too, to bolster their view of their brother or sister.
Have fun as a family
Shove the usual commitments to one side, get out and have fun as a family. Whether it’s charging down sand dunes, catching a movie or playing a game – having fun together is the best thing for bonding.
And don’t worry...
So don’t worry if your children are more Tom and Jerry than cutesy Waltons - it will almost certainly pass. The way your children get on now has little bearing on their relationship as they grow up.