How to Teach Boundaries to Siblings

By Leah Campbell
Teaching your children boundaries can sometimes seem impossible.
Teaching your children boundaries can sometimes seem impossible.

Squabbling siblings can interrupt the calm of even the nicest family outing, leaving many parents frustrated and unsure of how to help their children get along. To some extent, all siblings will fight occasionally, but navigating sibling relationships can also help them to better understand how to interact with others. If you start by teaching your children to respect each others' boundaries, they may have a better understanding of boundaries outside the home as well.

Talk to your children about how they interact with their siblings, and explore times when they may have hurt feelings or crossed boundaries. “Early Childhood Today,” a publication on the Scholastic website, suggests encouraging your children to put on their “antennas” as they navigate through the world, remaining cognizant of how their actions may affect others.

Encourage your children to create their own bubbles of space, sitting down and holding their arms out in the area they designate as their own. Practice not invading each others' bubbles as a family, making a game of avoiding personal space designations. Refer back to the personal space bubble often in the future as needed.

Acknowledge and praise those moments when your children are able to solve their problems together, without your interference. You will always be involved when those encounters turn a negative direction, so it is important for you to show you noticed when they turn out positively as well, according to social workers Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner.

Discuss how boundaries extend beyond just the physical. Talk about how the things your children say, the volumes of their voices and the way they treat each others' personal property can also invade boundaries. Search for ways they can remain aware of those issues, as well as the physical issues.

Parenting and relationship expert Tom Haller suggests getting together as a family to explore individual boundaries. Explain to your children that everyone has different personal boundaries and ask what theirs may be. Then encourage your children to speak up when they feel as though their own boundaries are being violated.

Utilize television and movies to continue the discussions about boundaries. After viewing shows together, ask your children if they noticed any boundary issues in what you observed. You can even extend this lesson to real life by asking them about the boundaries they may have witnessed being violated in school or while out running errands.

React immediately when you notice your children disrespecting each others' boundaries, Haller suggests. Refer back to your previous conversations about boundaries and give your children the opportunity to apologize and rectify the situation. Step in when they do not, and separate your children until they are able to play respectfully with each other.

About the Author

Living in Alaska, Leah Campbell has traveled the world and written extensively on topics relating to infertility, dating, adoption and parenting. She recently released her first book, and holds a psychology degree (with an emphasis in child development and abnormal child psychology) from San Diego State University.