Monday, June 20, 2011


First of all let me apologize to my youngest brother, Kevin, for not finding a picture with all 5 of us!
I am the oldest of 5, yes, the one with the bow is me!  Growing up with brothers and sisters is filled with love, sharing, and laughter.  It can also come with arguing, complaining, and the classic sibling rivalry.

What I see as vital when working with sibling rivalry is to acknowledge the feelings of both parties.  I am getting ahead of myself. 

In our classroom we work with students on conflict resolution.   We help the students practice expressing their feelings, acknowledging the feelings of the other party, asking for and working toward a resolution, and finally shaking hands.   Only one person may speak at a time, the other person must listen.

It goes something like this:
Child 1 - I feel bad when you take my pencil.  (expressing feelings)
Child 2 - I am sorry that you feel bad when I use your pencil.  (acknowledgement)
Child 1 - I would like you to find your own pencil and not use mine anymore.  (asking for a resolution)
Child 2 - Will you help me find a pencil of my own? (working toward a resolution)
Child 1 - OK.  (They shake hands)

That was a simple example.  Rivalry can be much more complicated.    Here is another option:

Use a Peace Rock, (rose, stick, etc.).  Place the Peace Rock in an easily accessible place.  When someone gets the Peace Rock, he or she requests to talk out a problem privately.  The two parties can go speak to each other, before the rock is put back in it's place they can reveal any resolutions they have come up with.

Look at what problems continuously arise.  Is it about personal space?  personal belongings?  attention?  frustration?  expectations?

If it is about personal space, have the whole family talk and come up with guidelines for how to move and respect each other's space.

If it is about sharing and personal belongings, practice asking to borrow things politely, saying thank you, and most of all returning things in good shape and in a prompt manner. If the answer is no, than it is no.  If a child is given a gift and his or her siblings don't respect his ownership the child begins to feel that his rights are usurped and jealousy can emerge.

If it about attention, remember the older child has been pushed off his pedestal by the younger one.  On the other hand, the younger one is not yet as independent as the older one.  They all need attention.  Hug them, tell them you love them, tell them they share something very special, you!  Help them know that you will always give them attention but like a box of cookies, they have to share you.

If it is about frustration, teach children to take a deep breath and to take a break if things are not going their way.  Help the children change activities, declare 10 minutes of peace where everyone does an activity on their own, even you!

Expectations, everyone has them.  You might have a family meeting to discuss what the children expect of each other, what you expect of them, and what they expect of you.  Make a list.
In our family we expect:
To work out our differences peacefully.
To love each other even when we are arguing.
To ask permission before taking someone else's belongings.
To play fairly.
To be kind

You can make the list as long as you want, but remember it all boils down to

Be Kind.
Be Safe.
Do Your Best.

Siblings always know how to push each other's buttons.   Believe it or not the majority of children learn to love their siblings. They love you, they share you, they want to make you proud.  So they share this goal, they share laughter and love.  If they can share these things, they can learn to share everything. 

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