Is there any way I can help my kids get along?

Polly Dunn

It’s so tough as a parent to want your children to get along with each other, when all they ever seem to do is squabble!  Here are some of my favorite tips to help reduce the infighting at your house:

• Let your kids work out their differences on their own whenever possible. As long as they are not harming each other, it’s good for them to learn to solve their problems without your involvement.

• Don’t compare your kids! Each one of them has their own strengths and weaknesses, and drawing attention to how they measure up to their sibling only adds fuel to the rivalry fire.

• Try to give all of your children some one-on-one time. Believe me, this is a hard one to do when you have a houseful of kids! But, children crave the undivided attention of their parents and need it on a regular basis.

• Pay attention to your children when they are playing nicely together. So often we give our attention when they are misbehaving and withhold it when they are doing what we like! The old saying “let sleeping dogs lie” should not apply to your parenting. When they’re sharing or acting kindly to one another, tell them! Your kids cherish your praise.

• Spending time as a family can also help reduce sibling rivalry. Playing board games, eating dinner together, going on an outing, really any family activity can help. The more time your children spend together interacting positively under your watchful eye, the more likely they will be to turn to that behavior when you’re not watching!

• Express your love to your children regularly. Let each one of them know that you love them unconditionally. Your love for them has nothing to do with their accomplishments. Often, siblings get jealous of each other when they feel that one does things better than the other. Show them that you love them unconditionally, not just because of their strengths and talents.

• And last but not least, talk to your kids about their feelings. Let them know that it’s okay to feel jealous of or frustrated with their siblings. Share with them your experiences with sibling rivalry growing up. They’ll love hearing stories about you and their aunts and uncles as kids and will be more likely to talk with you about their feelings since you’ve “been there, done that!”

Excerpts taken from my blog,

John Berkowitz
Social Work
Some tips to helping kids get along:
  • Provide support to your child. This may seem easy, but how often do you really listen to your child? Pick up on her social cues by listening to what she says happened on the playground. Support your child’s choice of friends and welcome them to your home. Try getting to know her friends and their parents.
  • Stay balanced when things are hard. Go ahead and empathize with your child’s pain, but keep it in perspective. Making friends is a lifelong process and will of course have its ups and downs. Pain, unfortunately, is a part of it. According to Salin, “all children will experience some form of ‘normal’ social pain in their friendships. We can support them by listening and acknowledging their feelings.” Talk about your concerns with other adults who can support you -- such as a coach, teacher, friend, or family member. You never want to share your anxiety with your child, so find someone who can help offer insight about your child or consult with professionals.
  • Perhaps most importantly, you need to show your child how to be a good friend and make friends. The best way is to model the behavior you would like to see. According to Boys Town Pediatrics, there are several ways you can accomplish this at home:
  1. Help your child realize his own strengths.
  2. Have a sense of humor about yourself and your shortcomings.
  3. Listen to your child without criticism.
  4. Be kind, give compliments, wave to a friend, open the door for someone.
  5. Be understanding of what others are going through by showing empathy.
  6. Don’t complain. Instead, teach your children to accept what can't be changed by working hard to change the things that can.
Learning to build friendships is one of the ways children develop into well-rounded, emotionally healthy human beings. “I’ve worked with many adults who have achieved tremendous success in terms of college, career, money, etc. and yet they are sad and empty because they have great difficulty in their relationships,” says Salin. By giving your child the skills he needs to be confident and compassionate, you increase the likelihood that friends will eagerly come into his life. And friends will give his life a richness and happiness he will always treasure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.