One of my most cherished dreams as a mom is that my children should be the best of friends. To see them fighting, grabbing each other’s toys or constantly bickering and squabbling can be a distressing and bewildering experience. On the other hand, when my children get along, I sit back and inhale every second. I love hearing them make each other laugh, entertain each other and enjoy each other. I love every millisecond because I know it won’t last long and it will end in them screaming at each other.
Dreaming of Friendship Among Siblings
I always said I wanted to have two children and then I’d be done. That was the vision I had for my family. I grew up with a sibling. That is what I knew. For whatever reason, that’s what I was comfortable with considering for my own life.
Now, I have two wonderful children—a nine-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old boy. They are great kids. They are full of personality and intelligence and love. I believe that they really love each other. But, more often than not, they can’t stand each other. When I sit back and think about my children’s relationship with each other, I immediately hear The Facts of Life theme song in my head. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…siblings.
A Look Back at My Family Dynamic
It’s not like my brother and I were thick as thieves. We could barely tolerate each other for the early part of our lives. But while my brother and I might not have been best friends for most of our young adult lives, I’d say he’s one of my favorite people in the world now. Though I know he’d have a smug look reading that, I’m pretty sure he knows that to be true. If my parents had a second child just to give him a sibling, I’m glad it was me. Thirteen-year-old me would call you a liar for saying I ever said that.
Unraveling the Sibling Equation
That’s the thing about siblings—sometimes they’re friends from birth, sometimes they hate each other for life. Two children being born to the same family guarantees nothing. I wonder how much this closeness is affected by difference in sex or age. Why do some brothers and sisters get along so much better than others? To what extent are parents the cause of it, and what can they do to make it easier for children to get on together?
Even siblings who are best friends fight sometimes. It’s normal for siblings to annoy each other, and resolving conflict helps them practice important social skills. But if your children are anything like mine and are constantly fighting, there are ways to help keep the peace.
Strategies for Surviving Sibling Spats
During this long winter break from school, I started looking for patterns in my children’s conflicts. The fights tended to happen when they were looking for attention or were bored. Figuring out the root cause helped me get ahead of the conflict. Setting rules ahead of time helped too.
Then, since I was home with them for extra time thanks to the snow days, I tried to lay the groundwork for more positive behavior. I told them that while I knew they could solve small disagreements, I was always there for bigger issues. Since Cohen is older, I started with him and coached him on how to respond when conflict starts: “If she hits you, please don’t hit her back. Instead, come tell me right away.”
I tried to tell them how proud I am of them when they make a good decision. When I see them interacting and calmly following the rules they agreed to, I praise them for it. I also encourage them to report the kind things that their siblings do like sharing their snacks.
Lastly, I tried to help them let go of the notion of fairness. Life throws curveballs and sometimes it just isn’t fair. What Mom says goes.
These strategies are only a stepping stone in the complex relationship of my children. I plan to continue to provide them with a loving environment and hope that as they grow older their relationship grows as well.
Babies & Toddlers