When my kids fight, sometimes it just plain annoys me and other times it hurts my heart. I want my kids to not only get along, but to be friends. In their moments of conflict, it’s easy to feel hopeless a friendship isn’t possible.
Before we adopt that doom and gloom mentality, let’s remember that relationships are tricky to navigate sometimes, even as adults. They’re even more difficult to navigate for kids whose brains aren’t fully developed, whose emotional IQs are at various stages, and whose personalities are still forming.
Here are some strategies we can use to help our families navigate sibling rivalry:
- Be the Mediator: Instead of jumping to conclusions about who did what, let’s take the time to listen to each child’s side of the story. Feeling heard is an important part of relationships and allowing each child to talk gives them the opportunity to share their feelings and their heart. As the mediator, set some ground rules, like no interrupting, so that there’s order to the conversation.
- Understand Personalities: A child with a strong personality may not understand that her harsh tone hurts the feelings of her sensitive sibling. Or the introverted child may feel bothered when his extroverted sibling constantly wants to play. The more we as parents seek to understand our child(ren)’s personalities, the more we can try to help the entire family celebrate and respect the unique differences.
- Give Them a Problem to Solve: Sometimes we bond the most with people when we have a shared experience, hardship, or problem to solve. We may not feel it in the moment, but looking back, we can see how we bonded to the people we went through it with.
As parents, it’s easy to want our kids to never face hardship, but that’s often how we grow. Give siblings the opportunity to be a team and solve a problem together, whether that’s what to make for dinner or how to stretch the family budget for Christmas gifts
- Teach a Proper Apology: We can tell our kids to say they’re sorry, but it may not be heartfelt or sincere. Let’s take it a step further and expect them to ask for forgiveness and to also respond to a sibling’s request for forgiveness.
- Pray: Prayer it’s passive, it’s proactive. It shouldn’t be a last resort, but a first reaction to figuring out how to navigate sibling rivalry. In the book of James, God tells us that He gives wisdom freely to those who ask. Let’s regularly ask God for help in navigating the unique challenges of our kids’ relationships with each other. Let’s ask Him to make our desire for our kids to be friends to become reality. It may not be in our timeline, but we can trust God in the waiting.
What other strategies have worked well for you in navigating sibling rivalry? We’d love to hear them!