Your Kids Don't Get Along
Sibling Rivalry Happens in the Best Families
there is more than one child in your house there is a slight chance
that there will be an occasional moment that they do not like
each other very much.
there is much more than a slight chance. The chances are more
than likely. The reasons will run the gambit from overtired crankiness
to a real animosity between siblings. The textbooks call this
sibling rivalry. Although it may make you crazy, it is very normal.
exist where the children get along all the time, where sibling
rivalry never crops up? It is pretty safe to say no. Adults, who
have been through many relationships and life experiences (and,
hopefully, learned from them), often have trouble getting along
with each other...all the time. Why should we expect kids to have
the skills we are still trying to master?
As adults it is up to
us to set a good example and to help the children we to love get
along...at least most of the time. It's never too early to start
learning how to negotiate and work out differences without resorting
to screaming fits or fists.
rivalry in action
Sibling rivalry may be the result of different genders. It is
difficult for girls and boys to play the same games together or
talk about the same things. Girls may spend hours playing with
Barbie. For most boys, the best role to play in Barbie-land is
the earthquake that takes out the pool with all the girls in it.
This only works until the grown-up of the house stops the fun.
Johnny is called inside, told to leave the girls alone and the
grown-up goes back to doing whatever he or she was doing before
being so rudely interrupted.
although logical, will only cause more of a problem. Little Johnny,
in his boyish way, was playing. True, the girls may have seen
it as being a nuisance, but a group of boys would have all joined
Instead of labeling the behavior as bad, explain that his behavior
was not appropriate. "Johnny, overturning the pool upset
the girls. I know you were just playing but it isn't playing unless
everyone is having fun." Let him know that he wasn't doing
anything basically wrong, but in that situation it just didn't
fit. He can accept that it was a bad idea -- in that context.
He can learn to pay attention to how his behavior is affecting
others. This lesson comes in handy at home, at school and, years
later, at work and in his own home.
problem is not Johnny. He just needs someone with common interests
to play with. Try redirecting his energy to more group oriented
activity or to something he can do by himself.
of playing Barbie, the group could play a game or make snacks
together. If the girls can't be pried away from dolls, suggest
reading a book, playing a computer game, or a bike ride. These
might work to keep the peace, but they don't address the issue
of the girls shutting Johnny out of the group activity.
Validation is vital
Next, recognize and validate his feelings, "I bet it isn't
much fun watching a bunch of girls play with their Barbies."
Take the sting out of the lesson. Let him know that his reaction
is understandable. He was doing his best to take part in the group
activity. It's not his fault that the game was not appropriate.
Try to explain what was wrong with the way he chose to participate
and let him think of alternatives that might work better. Can he
play the driver of Barbie's car? Are there craft materials to
make a bench or table for Barbie? Learning to adapt to group situations
is an important life lesson.
some time out of your day for play and show him that he is fun
to play with, "I have some time right now and I would love
to play a game or do something fun with you. What do you want
to do?" When little Johnny isn't so bored trying to find
something to do, he will get along much better with his sisters.
Just be prepared
for the complaints that you're playing with him and not the girls!
no simple solutions because your children are complex people.
Just remember that your kids do love each other and one day, when
they are grown, they will probably be best friends...who will still
get on each other's nerves every once in a while.
Katrina Cramer-Diaz is a working mom with a background in education and plenty of experience in parenting. She lives in Virginia with her four children.