For one thing, the five year age difference probably automatically reduced sibling rivalry because our kids weren’t direct competitors. And the fact that they were opposite sexes probably made a difference, too … again because they weren’t direct competitors. Will and Christina were also homeschooled and spent lots of time together, which encouraged them to become best friends.
Those factors are part of our unique family, but there are a number of ideas any family can use to reduce sibling rivalry. I have a post at Bits of Positivity (formerly called Raising Figure Skaters) about “How to Help Each of Your Children Feel Special.” I think all the ideas in that post are ones that can help reduce sibling rivalry.
I especially like to remember this quote when it comes to siblings:
“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.” - Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid
Here are some ideas for helping your kids get along condensed into my top 5 ways to reduce sibling rivalry.
1. Focus on meeting each child’s needs and interests.
This can include many things … from following each child’s unique interests to making sure you’re giving affection to each child. In my “Top 10 Montessori Principles for Natural Learning,” I list “follow the child” as the number one Montessori principle.
2. Learn to fully appreciate each child’s unique personality and gifts.
You’ll be much more likely to meet each child’s needs and interests if you appreciate each child’s unique personality and gifts. I really recommend learning everything you can about personality types. You’ll find more information about personality types in my “How to Help Each Child Feel Special” post.
My husband and I are aware of the personality types of our siblings, kids, and kids-in-law. We rejoice in the diversity of talents and unique additions each brings to our family. Our kids and kids-in-law are all aware of the unique personality types within our family as well.
3. Help your children feel they’re on the same team.
My kids actually were on the same team. When our family belonged to a roller skating dance club when Will was 10 and Christina was 5, Will and Christina decided they wanted to compete in roller skating. So they became a roller-skating dance team. Will went to Roller Skating Nationals in singles and Christina in solo dance, but they were also able to go to Roller Skating Nationals as a dance team. When they started figure skating at ages 11 and 6, they wanted to start skating as a pair team. They competed in pairs together and were able to win two national medals and even compete at an international competition in Canada together.
We taught Will and Christina as a team to support each other and not criticize the other if one of them made a mistake. That served them both well when Christina decided to focus solely on ice dance at age 12 (which was good because within a year she was too tall for pairs). When Christina went into ice dance, Will found a new pair partner, and Christina found a dance partner. Their experiences working together as a skating team helped them become good, supportive partners in other team situations.
(Side note: Will and Christina even competed together in ice dance a few years and were able to go to Junior Nationals together in that, too. Will was never actually interested in ice dance, but he enjoyed helping Christina and found that ice dance helped his artistry for pairs.)
Your children might not have the opportunity to be literally on the same team in the way that mine were, but it’s helpful whenever your kids can feel that they’re working together toward a common goal.
For many children, it will help to play cooperative games unless your children truly enjoy competitive games. We played cooperative games when our kids were little until they requested competitive games or activities. Their competitive ski racing and competitive skating activities came from their requests, not ours. I’m always amazed at how happily my family can play board games or any competitive games together, and I think it helped that my kids weren’t forced into competition. I have a post on “How to Use Cooperative Games to Teach Sportsmanship” with ideas that can be used at a number of ages.
4. Do as many family activities together as possible.
Doing things together encourages togetherness. Our family did lots of homeschooling activities and traveling for figure skating competitions together. We had a family night every week where we went to a movie or watched a video together. We also did lots of skiing as a family.
5. Learn communication skills that will help you and your children talk about feelings.
I think this is essential for any family. For some families, it helps to have regular family meetings. We didn’t have regular family meetings, but we always talked about any important issues that affected our kids. Our children learned to be kind to each other and honest with both us and each other. They learned techniques for communicating openly and honestly. Here are some posts about ideas that worked for my family along with Montessori ideas that work in many types of schools and families:
- “How We Used Gentle Discipline in Our Homeschool”
- “Grace and Courtesy Games at Home or School”
- “Montessori-Inspired Peace Education Activities”
I’m happy to say that my two kids at 23 and 28 still get along very well … in fact, my kids and kids-in-law even bought a 3-story house and all live together peacefully. They know how to communicate their feelings when issues arise. But most important, they all love … and like … each other.
Do you have a favorite way to reduce sibling rivalry in your family?
This post was part of the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting with the theme Sibling Rivalry. This month our participants have written about siblings — their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
- Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
- Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
- Baby Brother born from an Ocean — Abby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister’s new baby.
- Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it’s definitely worth it.
- Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
- It’s Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life’s twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
- Support — sustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband’s have affected their family and at a time of need.
- Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
- Lessening the competitive enviornment in the home — Lisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
- The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that’s maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
- 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
- 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
- Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins’ sibling bond.
- Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
- Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
- Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children’s relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
- Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
- For My One and Only Daughter — Playing for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
- Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
- The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
- Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen‘s children didn’t start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
- Don’t Seek What Isn’t There – On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
- Sibling Love / Sibling Hate? — Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?
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