Your children could have several reasons why they've declared war on one another. The arrival of a new baby can leave older children feeling envious about the amount of time they each get to spend with their parents, according to pediatrician William Sears, at AskDrSears.com. Those feelings could turn into resentment toward the baby or other younger siblings. Sibling rivalry is also not an uncommon facet of childhood, especially if two or more children are close in age, according to the Mayo Clinic. Kids might fight more frequently in a bid to get attention or love from mom and dad. Sometimes, ill feelings between siblings might also stem from personality conflicts.
How to Handle It
Those arguments and quarrels are an important life lesson into how to get along, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents should steer clear unless the arguments turn violent. If the kids try to involve you, hear each person's side, but try not to take sides. Parents can also try suggesting solutions, such as giving each child five minutes to play with a toy if the siblings have been battling over it, according to KidsHealth. You cannot control the feelings your children have toward one another, but helping them behave in a civil manner is important.
Siblings might be so preoccupied with competing that they have forgotten how to be friendly with one another. Parents can help when it comes to bonding by not making comparisons between children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Assigning children housework that requires teamwork, such as cleaning their room, or encouraging children to comfort or help siblings who are upset can foster bonding, according to Sears. If resentment is over a new baby, encourage the older kids to get involved by decorating the new nursery together.
Bonding takes time, but remember that fights, anger and disagreements among siblings might never fully go away. Sibling friction tends to lessen as children become teenagers, according to the Mayo Clinic. Sometimes, your children might feel the need to complain about their siblings. Rather than scolding your child, listen to what she is saying and offer your own experiences with sibling rivalry or disagreements when you were young. Your insight might help your daughter tackle similar problems among her siblings later on.
Avoid comparisons. While you want to motivate your child to succeed, you don't want to place undue pressure on him by comparing his achievements -- or lack thereof -- to siblings and friends. Instead, establish goals for your child that are not based on his siblings' or friends' successes or failures.
Encourage conflict resolution. When your child puts you in the middle of a battle with her siblings or friends, she might end up displeased with your resolution and feel like you're taking sides, resulting in jealousy. When minor spats between friends or siblings occur, push your kids to come to fair resolutions on their own, eliminating the third-party mediator that can instigate jealousy.
Give equal love and attention. If you appear to favor one child over another -- even unintentionally -- your child might develop feelings of jealousy. Every day, set aside a moment for some one-on-one time with each child. While younger children might naturally demand more of your time, chatting with an older child on the way to school or reading to him before bed can help minimize any potential feelings of jealousy or sibling favoritism.
Talk to your jealous child about her feelings. Feelings of anger, sadness or rejection can accompany jealousy. Encourage your child to channel these negative feelings into more positive ones, instead looking on the bright side of the situation and not dwelling on the negative. Have an optimistic outlook in your life as well to encourage the same mentality in your jealous child.
Encourage children to work together. Rather than asking your kids to clean their rooms and rewarding one child for doing the best job, give them both praise for following your instructions. Avoiding unnecessary competitions between kids can eliminate potential jealousy.
Encourage self-expression. If you force your daughter to play soccer because her friends do, she might become jealous that her friends enjoy the sport more or perform better on the field. Sign your kid up for activities that she loves, and she will excel and focus on her enjoyment, not on comparing her achievements to those of friends or siblings.
Look for signs of favoritism. Whether the siblings engaged in sibling rivalry are your grandchildren or the children of your friends, you may be able to change the family dynamic, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Do the parents often applaud one child but frequently criticize the other? Do punishments between the children seem unfair? Be realistic: only take note of what you see and try not to guess what happens behind closed doors.
Talk to the children one-on-one if you can. Ask the children how they are doing and how things are going with their other sibling. Do the children complain about the treatment they receive? The children may tell you the extent of the favoritism when they are at home.
Find a calm time to speak with the parents about your concerns. If you are related to one of the parents, try talking with that parent alone. Bring notes of any examples of favoritism that you have seen. Try to avoid using judgmental language, says KidsHealth. You might want to say, "I have noticed Jill seems very sad. I noticed last weekend that Jack pushed her down, and when Jill fought back, only she was punished." Give the parents the opportunity to explain themselves.
Share any other concerns you may have about favoritism between the children. You may want to say, "I'm worried that this is going to cause strain between Jack and Jill as they get older." The parents may become defensive or angry. If the conversation gets heated, agree to separate and talk at a later time.
Provide a counter influence in the young child's life. While the parents may or may not take your comments about favoritism to heart, you may be able to soften the impact they have on their child. When you are watching the children, aim for consistency and fairness between them, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Fair does not necessarily mean "equal," says PBS Kids, a child development site. Older children may get the perk of staying up later than younger children, but this does not necessarily mean that favoritism is at play.
The occasional display of favoritism is normal. Frequent displays of favoritism can cause damage. If you notice several incidents in which one child is favored over another, it may be time to speak up.
When your children have a conflict and need help restoring peace, monitor their interaction to see if they can resolve issues without help. If the age difference is enough that one child has a significant advantage over a younger child or if physical violence escalates, intervene to provide assistance to your children, suggests the University of Michigan Health System. Without taking sides, listen to the perspectives of both children and then encourage problem-solving with compromise and sharing, as appropriate.
Hold a family meeting with your children to discuss issues with fighting, recommends the University of Michigan Health System. In the meeting, give each child an opportunity to voice concerns and problems in the family. Insist that other family members afford respect to whoever is speaking to maintain order in the meeting. Move forward in the meeting to discuss new ground rules for interaction between family members. Possible rules include no physical or emotional hurting (hitting and name calling, for example), no “borrowing” items without prior permission, and no fighting over objects.
Teach Respectful Interaction
Discuss the importance of respectful interaction between your kids to instill positive habits, advises psychologist Laura Markham, with the Aha Parenting website. Make a policy about not calling each other names or speaking disrespectfully to others. Differences of opinion between siblings are normal and expected, but sinking to a level of hurting each other, either emotionally or physically, is off-limits. Tell your children that it’s important to develop skills of disagreeing with other people without becoming disrespectful. They have a chance to become adept at these skills, thanks to their siblings.
Talk about how children might avoid many confrontations between siblings with a little coaching about how to avoid negative circumstances, counsels social worker Kim Abraham, with the Empowering Parents website. For example, if one sibling is in a bad mood, other siblings might steer clear to avoid potential fights. Another way to prevent a confrontation is to avoid provoking siblings if a child knows that specific actions frequently cause problems. For example, one sibling playing loud music when another sibling is trying to sleep might be a common provocation that kids could avoid.
Your toddler might not have patience for formal learning activities, but most little ones love fast-paced games. Teach your older children to play fun games such as "I Spy," with your toddler, suggests pediatric occupational therapist Dr. Anne Zachry. Play patty-cake or sing "Itsy, Bitsy Spider." Rhyming songs and chants teach young children vocabulary, rhythm and sentence structure.
One way to encourage language development is by asking questions. Encourage older children to ask your toddler, rather than just giving him things. For example, instead of just handing a child a snack, ask, "Do you want some crackers or grapes?" Once toddlers begin to use words, they can answer with a yes or no, rather than simply gesturing, Zachry says.
Your older children likely find your toddler's speech errors adorable, but don't let them mimic or repeat inaccurate speech. Instead, suggested Zachry, use correct language and full sentences. When your toddler mispronounces a word, don't correct her, but simply restate the sentence for her to hear. Young toddlers can learn hand signs for basic words, such as snack, drink or more. These words can reduce frustration and even accelerate language development. Older siblings usually enjoy learning sign language and teaching it to younger siblings.
Set the Example
Little ones are quick to pick up inappropriate language from older siblings, especially if they get a lot of attention for saying those words. Try not to overreact when your toddler uses colorful language, but go to the source instead, suggests Jennifer Little, educational consultant and founder of Parents Teach Kids, an educational and academic support service for parents. "Parents need to be aware of what the older siblings are teaching the child," notes Little. "The expression, 'Little pitchers have big ears' applies."
I always knew I wanted more than one child. Even in the thick of new motherhood, sleep deprived and struggling with the enormity of raising a baby into a self sufficient adult, I knew I would do it all again just for the sake of giving my daughter a sibling. Not everyone feels the same – and that’s totally OK – but my family didn’t feel whole until my son was born.
Siblings are a vital part of our family legacy, and I love documenting that value through photography. I experience so much joy when I capture an image of my two babies together. It doesn’t have to be photographically perfect. As long as it somehow documents their budding friendship and sibling relationship, I’m happy.
So, in honor of National Siblings Day, here are my 5 tips to photograph siblings…
1. Give Clear Directives: Photographing siblings is like using all your parental communication skills at once. When giving your children directives, be extremely clear and give only one instruction at a time. “Give him a hug” can result in an image of arms flaying and covered faces. Instead, use directives like, “Put your head on his shoulder” or “Get cheek to cheek.” Simple directives will help create the image you’re looking for.
2. Contain Them: Photographing siblings is much easier when they’re contained. Without the stress of one running off, you can focus on encouraging engagement for a fun, lively shot. While they’re enjoying a ride in the wagon (like above), dip in the bath tub or pool or in a playhouse together, use that opportunity to capture some touching images.
3. Use the Continuous Shooting Mode: Most cameras have a continuous shooting mode setting. Use it! Moments between siblings happen fast. They go from wildly in love to all out war in a matter of minutes. Use the continuous shooting mode to capture all the moments in between. You’ll love looking back at those images later on.
4. Keep Shutter Speeds High: To avoid blurred chaos, keep the shutter speeds high when shooting siblings. Many DSLR have a Shutter Speed Priority setting (Tv on Canon) that make it easier. On the flip side, document movement of older kids jumping on a trampoline or running together to create a different feel.
5. Pucker up: I adore portraits of my kids. But equally so are the images that document the engagement and action in a sibling relationship. Ask your little ones to pucker up for a kiss or give each other a high five. Capture your children feeding each other at a park picnic or discovering the fish in the pond. Think about your everyday lives and how your children engage with one another, and document those moments.