Sibling rivalry. If you have two or more kids, you know this term. You understand the competitiveness, the arguments, the fights, the yelling, and the bickering that goes on between your children. And you are probably the coach who is constantly breaking up these fights.
In our home, we have two boys two years apart. They are best friends, they love to play together, and they get along great…most of the time. While they play together really well (and I’ve worked really hard to make sure this happens), we still have “sibling reasoning.”
I have replaced the phrase sibling rivalry with sibling reasoning. I have done this for several reasons. The first one is for me. I want to see my children’s squabbles in a more positive light. If I lose it, then who will pull them out of their hot mess? Secondly, I want my kiddos to see it positively too. If they can have a gentler word like “reasoning” in their vocabulary, they are more likely to react more favorably. And lastly, I just see situations differently than the average person. You see, I view “sibling reasoning” as a teachable moment, as a chance to help my children learn how to get along with their brother and future people who come along in their life.
How my home looks different with sibling reasoning…
Now that we have a new phrase, arguments and disagreements, and yes fights, are handled differently. When my children wrong one another, hit each other, take a toy away from another sibling, or any other unkind act, they must reason with each other. They must come to an understanding. How do they do this? There are several steps.
How we resolve problems with sibling reasoning…
Ask forgiveness: The child who has wronged the other one must ask for forgiveness. They don’t get off the hook with a reprimand, time out, or lose of a toy. They actually have to seek forgiveness from their brother. And they do this with their body.
- Eye contact and getting at their sibling’s eye level. They must apologize in a way that is heard and acknowledged from the other child.
- They must use their voice and make sure they are heard. They use their words to ask for forgiveness.
- The hurt party receives the forgiveness with a physical hug. This shows the person who was wrong acknowledges the apology and reaches out to say “it’s ok.” It also gives physical touch to help both parties feel love and acceptance.
If the apology is not accepted right away: If the child is not able to forgive on the spot, the other child must ask it again, or try to do something nice to show they are truly sorry. If this still doesn’t work, sometimes Mommy has to step in and mediate.
What about accidents?: We still seek an apology for an accident. We do this so that the hurt party doesn’t think their sibling went out of his way to hurt his brother. It also dissipates any argument or backlash that could happen because of the accident. It also shows humility on the part of the person who accidentally hurt his brother.
Sticking the band-aid on: After the hug and forgiveness happens, I like to tell my kids how lucky they are that of all the kids in all the world of all time, God gave them this particular brother. That helps them to see the specialness and to increase their fondness of their brother. I can sometimes see a physical change on the face with my son’s eyes, smile, or attitude towards his brother.
When to start?: Kids are never too young to start learning humility and forgiveness. We started our youngest before he was two years old. We had to help him a lot in the beginning, but it was worth it.
I hope you can start to see your kids (annoying) fights, arguments, and squabbles in a more positive light. I hope you can internalize it enough to help them see it more positively too. With new thoughts, you can direct new actions, which can truly change your home and your kids from the inside out!
Why not read more? How to exercise in peace at home, updating toys, or how to automate your life.