You probably had a wonderful vision of what was to come when you decided to have multiple children: an image of them playing together, laughing, while you cooked dinner peacefully in the next room over.
Instead, it is four o’clock in the afternoon and you have a pounding headache and a shirt covered in marker from refereeing their screaming matches against each other since eight in the morning. You’ve tried taking away the toy they’re fighting over altogether, but they just move on to another one. You’ve attempted to make them list the reasons why they love each other, but they grudgingly sneer back and forth.
Newsflash: Punishing your children for not getting along is never the answer. (Just hear me out!)
Positive Parenting Techniques That Can Help
Positive parenting techniques are much more helpful. They emphasize mutual respect and utilize the power of positive instructions. These are techniques that focus on learning (for the future) instead of punishing (which is a technique that used to be emphasized in the past). Studies consistently show that using positive parenting yields better outcomes in terms of the child’s behavior, emotional growth, academic performance, and mental health.
In fact, encouraging your kids to get along by fostering activities and mindsets that promote positivity is much more effective.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of ways to positively encourage your children to get along – no timeouts necessary.
- Allow the children to have time alone. Your kids can feel as if they never get a break from their siblings, especially if they share a room.
Just as you need a vacation by yourself every once in a while, so do they! “Alone time” can be fostered in the form of taking children on errands individually to spend time with just them, or even by encouraging them to pick a quiet room in the house and read or draw alone for an hour. They will likely come back much more refreshed, patient, and less agitated with their siblings, and more likely to play together in peace.
- Introduce activities that encourage teamwork and partnership instead of competition. Instead of having your children compete against one another in a board game all day, allow them to be on a team together - versus you! Or, hide items around the house and, instead of telling them whoever finds the most items will win, tell them that if they, together, can find all the items within twenty minutes, they will both get a bowl of ice cream. Almost any activity that pits children against one another can easily be restructured to encourage teamwork, instead, and allow your children to start thinking of their siblings as their partners instead of their enemies.
- Commend them when they are getting along. Do not let your oldest child giving her sister the last cookie go unnoticed! When they’ve actually been playing together quietly (like they were doing in all those daydreams you had before you had kids) praise them for it, or even offer a reward. Something as simple as saying, “Because you were kind and got along all day, you each can stay up an extra fifteen minutes late tonight.” Positive reinforcements such as this will go a long way in helping them keep up the good work, reminding them that good behavior pays off.
- Talk to them about why they find it hard to get along with their siblings. Resentment can easily build in children, especially when a new sibling comes along and takes away attention, or when they feel their sibling is getting better treatment than they are. This can cause them to act out against their sister or brother in an attempt to deal with their feelings. Instead of punishing your child each time he makes his brother cry, take him to a quiet, unintimidating setting and ask him how he feels about playing with his brother. This conversation can, of course, be tailored to the age of the child you’re talking to. While a jealous four-year-old likely cannot truly vocalize their discomfort with recent changes brought on by a new baby in the house, they likely can tell you that they miss you, or that they don’t like you spending so much time with the baby. Listen to their thoughts and make an effort to help them with their feelings, by giving them a toy just for them, spending time with them alone, or having a special book read just between the two of you – and not their baby sister. Show them that you care about them just as much as their sibling and their relationship with their sibling will transform.
- Don’t focus on setbacks. If your children have been getting along seamlessly all week but get into a squabble over the pink marker, avoid making frustrated proclamations such as “You two NEVER get along!” or “All you do is fight!” If the children think this bad behavior is all you notice anyway, they will make less of an effort to get along in the first place. Instead, say, “You two have gotten along so well all week and made me so proud. Show me how well you can share the pink marker; I know you can!”
How Can These Methods Help Your Kids?
Implementing these methods can easily transform the ways in which your children interact with one another in just a short period of time. Focusing on keeping a positive attitude whilst dealing with their conflicts will set an example that they themselves will want to follow!
While occasional sibling squabbles are unavoidable, conflict is a normal part of human interaction and, as a parent, you have an amazing opportunity to teach your children how to overcome it using concrete methods that focus on positivity instead of negativity.
Amy Petrou is a content advocate at GenMindful.com, and a mother of two. In her free time, you will find her writing on her blog, reading and searching for pottery and paintings to add to her growing collection.