Those of us who grew up with siblings already know that there will inevitably come a time when we will not get along with one or more of them. (Perhaps this is why some people think being an only child has more benefits!)
However, even if conflict is part of every relationship, there are certain things we can do to make sure they are minimal at best. Here are a few ways we parents can help our children grow up as friends:
1. Show and teach them empathy. When our children exhibit feelings of frustration, we should let them know that we understand them. This helps validate what they feel. Encourage them to use words to express their feelings instead of fighting with each other
E.g. When kids don’t want to share with each other: “I am upset because you don’t want to share your toy with me. Can we please try sharing with each other?”
In every conflict, try not to jump to conclusions and immediately “punish” the “culprit,” i.e. the child who started the fight. Instead, practice active listening by encouraging your children to open up. You can use phrases like, “Would you like to tell me what happened?” and “So how did that make you feel?”
When our children feel that they can open up to us about their feelings, even the “bad” ones, they may end up relating more peacefully and harmoniously with each other because they know that we, their parents, will acknowledge them and listen to them when they need us to.
2. Strive to avoid comparisons. If you compare them constantly (“Why can’t you be more like your Kuya?” or “Buti pa si________, she’s more obedient than you!” etc.), more likely than not, they will end up feeling jealous of each other. Children may also gain a poor self-image of themselves. Such negative feelings can lead to bickering, hostility and disunity — instead of them feeling that they’re “in this together,” they will feel that they’re “out to get each other.”
What we can do instead is tell each of our kids about their respective strengths and weaknesses. Remember to do this one by one, perhaps during one of your regular “dates” with each child, or during your usual bonding time.
3. Make sure that your kids are familiar with your rules. And, try your best to keep them, too. Consistently remind them that yelling, teasing, hitting and other forms of physical “fighting” are unacceptable. It may help to write down or print out house rules and post them in different parts of the house. (if you have a child who is a non-reader, use symbols or pictures they can associate with each rule.)
Don’t forget to teach your kids, too, that these rules also apply to other children, e.g. those they meet at the local playground, in school, at playdates, etc.