Handling Summertime Squabbles
Build Team Family
Establish a We (versus a Me) mentality. Build a team family mentality. You can have a family cheer and/or a special handshake. You don’t have to go that route, but do look for ways to build your own united front that supports and stands up for one another. Depending on their age, have your children create projects and goals they want to accomplish together: for example, they might hold a mini-garage sale or lemonade stand with proceeds to buy a new Lego set they both want.
Create a sibling treasure jar. Put money or candy in the jar when you see either of them doing something nice for the other one or making a good choice not to tease back. Once the jar is filled, they can choose what they’d like to do together: go to an aquarium, the movies, or a family fun center, for example.
Celebrate their relationship. Let them make or buy gifts for each other for birthdays and holidays. Encourage times where they just go do an activity together (without friends). Declare “Sibling Sundays,” when they get to watch a movie and eat popcorn together. Keep them on the same team when playing board games against parents.
Arrange time for them to be apart from one another. Each child needs quality time alone with each parent. Have an outing together, go on a dinner date, arrange for separate play dates, and let each child go visit Grandma without the other sibling.
Treat and love each child fairly and uniquely, not equally. We all have different needs. Different children require different kinds of attention at different times.
Have community property and individual property. Generally speaking, most items should be community property—balls, puzzles, books, and games for example. Individual property is for “special” items. Perhaps it was a birthday gift or something they saved up for. Those items should be put somewhere special, with the rule that permission needs to be granted before they are used by the other sibling.
7. Minimize comparisons. Whether comparisons are positive or negative, they have the same unintended effect on your children. Instead of: You can ride your bicycle without training wheels now, not like your sister who still rides her tricycle, try self-esteem-building statements like You look very proud of yourself that you’ve learned how to ride your bicylce without training wheels.
8. Treat each child the same. Instead of trying to figure out who was the instigator (we don’t really know what happened), you can say something like, “Kids, do you need to go to take a break for a while or do you want to work on a solution now?”
Don’t play favorites. The child you are having trouble appreciating in the heat of the moment is exactly the child who also needs your love and attention. Be sensitive to this.
It’s really not possible to eliminate all conflict. But it is possible to increase the bonds, trust, and warmth in your home. It’s also important to take time to teach our young children the conflict-resolution tools they can use with loved ones, friends, and coworkers in the future. What a child doesn’t receive or have, after all, he can seldom later give.