My husband and I were lucky … our two kids were the best of friends even though they were born 5 years and 2 days apart. Of course, we had a number of factors that don’t apply to every family.
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?
Learn more about my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to. Teach Grace and Courtesy!
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