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Ways to Build Awesome Sibling Relationships

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When I talk about reading parenting books and mommy blogs and web sites, my mom always smiles and says, "We just had Dr. Spock." No, not the pointy-eared dude from Star Trek, but the guy who was probably the first parenting how-to guru.

Nowadays, every one gives advice...and I've mentioned quite a few here and love the feedback that you gals chime in below day after day. There is SO much out there about sibling rivalry. From a list of 20 ways to conquer it on Ask Dr. Sears to bits on Parenting and Babble, some may work for you, while others may everything with parenting, it is a bit of observation, a bit of trial-and-error, and a lot of trusting your gut. Here are a few ideas to start with to help your kids build awesome relationships with each other.

-- Get that "group mentality" going. Pick activities where your kids have to work together, whether one of their weekly chores is folding the sheets (a two-person job) or raking the leaves (again, one person has to hold the bag while the other rakes) or you plan a scavenger hunt or other type of game where they are a team. This reinforces their ability to work together, each of them can see the other's strengths and so on. If they play against the grown-ups, all the better to foster a fun working relationship.

-- Set up "good roles" for them to play with each other. Is your younger son a master of the knock-knock joke? Does your oldest daughter relish the role of being in charge? Does your middle son love teaching his little sister how to do things? Tap into these natural instincts and encourage them because it is hard to fight with the one who makes you feel better when you have a skinned knee or who you want to teach you how to yo-yo.

-- Set up House Rules and enforce them. Have rules (like no hitting, no saying shut up, no teasing, and so on) posted clearly in the kitchen or the hallways by their bedrooms. Also include positives (be kind, say I love you, remember to forgive) as well as ramifications (warnings, time outs, and the like). When little spats start, and you hear someone saying "Shut Up," remind that child about the house rules. This can squelch any potential fights from escalating.

-- Teach them that sometimes things won't be fair. This is a biggie. Kids will keep track of who got what and when. Sometimes, one child will need something more than the other, for whatever reason. Take bedtime. When your younger child asks, "Why does Parker get to stay up later?" remind her she needs more sleep since she is growing and her body has different needs. Try not to make it about younger and older, but enphasize different needs for different people.  

-- Teach them empathy. In a calm moment after a spat, talk about and repeat to your son what he said to his little sister and ask him how he thinks that may have made her feel. Illustrating how words make others feel, having them learn that "Golden Rule Mantra" can work wonders - not only in your home, but when they are out in the world. 

What is your best tip on building sibling relationships? Share your stories!


by on Apr. 12, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Replies (31-34):
by on Apr. 13, 2012 at 9:11 AM

I really like this article. My younger sister and I weren't and still aren't close at all. I hope my kids, especially being brother and sister, can be much closer. 

Thank you for posting!

by on Apr. 13, 2012 at 1:11 PM
Thanks for sharing and great tips. We try to get our kids doing things together. Like the article mentions raking, which they do also. But we have one of those big trees in our back yard, that drops those gumball things (the little balls with points on them), so I made a game one day of seeing who could pick up the most. They used their beach buckets and kept filling up trash bags and I kept count of how many buckets they dumped. The winner got $5, second place got $4 and third place got $3. And they ALL got ice cream cones! They enjoyed it because they all would get money and ice cream and were laughing and playing while doing it.
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by Bethany on Apr. 14, 2012 at 12:49 AM
We started early, before DD even got here. When my midwife would come to the house for my prenatal appts, as soon as Cab saw her, he would lift his shirt and she would listen to his tummy, just like she did mine. He helped her measure my tummy and we talked about his sister growing in there. We let him hold her right away and he has just been really loving towards her from the beginning. It's so much fun watching them now that she is old enough to play with him.
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by Bethany on Apr. 14, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Oh, and we also had a good book about being a big brother that he really likes and it talks about playing with baby, helping with baths, etc.
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