by Melissa Jaramillo
"He's looking at me!"
"She took my pencil!"
In unison: "Mommmmmmmmm!"
Yeah, we're there with you! At times it feels less like "Happy Family" and more like the Hatfields and McCoys have moved in!
Families aren't always sunshine and roses. Sometimes they resemble hurricanes and monsoons.
It doesn't have to be that way. Siblings can be kind to each other. Your job is to teach them how.
Many experts advise parents to let children work out their own conflicts. All kids squabble. Sibling interactions offers an opportunity to learn social skills for handling conflict.
However, sibling rivalry can demoralize kids and cause permanent damage when they don't work it out. Filling each child's emotional bank and equipping them with a conflict tool kit fosters sibling kindness and minimizes rivalry.
A child who feels secure, confident and understood can get along better with others, including younger or older siblings. Here's how you can fill each child's emotional bank.
Don't compare your kids to each other or to any other child.
Avoid labeling your children. Names like the "good one," the "bossy one" or "cooperative one" locks kids into fixed roles. It doesn't encourage growth and change.
Give lots of individual attention.Arrange one-on-one activities and outings with each child. Kids who feel loved and accepted for who they are will be less likely to fight.
Treat each child uniquely instead of treating each child equally. Your kids need you in different ways at different times.
Do make sure your kids have personal space. If they share a room, paint a line down the middle of the floor and set the furniture up to define two separate spaces.
Enforce standards of respect in your home. Be clear that name calling, meanness, hitting, scratching, and pinching are never appropriate things to do to other people.
Teach your kids basic negotiation and problem-solving skills like the concept of win/win, taking turns, trading and sweetening the deal.
Help your children learn empathy. Comment on other kids' feelings. Most importantly, offer your kids empathy for their own feelings.
Focus on their positive interactions with one another instead of talking about negative behavior.
You can encourage life-long friendship among your children by helping them find constructive ways to be kind to each other.
One simple, ugly truth plagues all parents. Your children know everything about you, see everything you do, hear what you say and then mimic it.
If you want kids to be kind, you'll have to set a good example. That means treating everyone, including your kids, respectfully and kindly.
Does a sibling needs kindness ideas? Suggest one of these:
• Help mom make their favorite meal or snack
• Teach them a task -- like taking off shoes
• Play the piano or keyboard together
• Read books together; let the younger one pick them
• Draw a picture just for your sibling
• Give lots of hugs
Choose a happy time for play when the children aren't tired or hungry. If they tend to fight in the late afternoon, encourage "alone time" or play time with a neighbor.
Find activities that they both enjoy. Help them find a little time each day to share a positive experience.
Role play positive responses to conflict before anyone is angry. How should you respond toward a slight? Take a big, deep breath. How should you respond in emotionally charged situations. Play act calmly sharing feelings and viewpoints.
Fostering close relationships between our kids pays off in kids who get along well and reach out with kindness.
Do your kids get along well? If so, why? How do your children show kindness to their siblings?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.