No More Bickering! 5 Ways to Help Siblings Play On the Same Team

Bickering, jealousy, deliberate annoying- any parent of more than one child has probably experienced some of these from their children. Although I long for my children to get along, to live together in harmony, some days it feels as if I am playing referee instead of coaching a unified team. It’s really frustrating for me as a parent to feel as if I am constantly telling my kids to just get along.

Although my kids are far from perfect in this area, there are some things that we have learned over the years that can help us get our kids on the same team. And while siblings are still going to have their moments of bickering, it sure is more peaceful when we can help them to get along.

Prevent sibling bickering
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Make family time a priority.

In many families now, family members are constantly going their separate ways. Every child is involved in multiple activities while mom and dad each have their own peer groups to have Bible study or social time with. The norm in our culture is for families to be apart. But this can really contribute to bickering and arguing. While it seems as if being together too much would cause family members to get on each other’s last nerve, I’ve sometimes found the opposite to be true. When we are involved in too many outside activities, the kids seem to have less tolerance for each other and more general grumpiness.
Make sure that the family has enough time to just be together. It might mean cutting other activities- your own or the kids’. But there should be some times when you can just hang out- eat supper together, play board games, have a family movie night. If you’re taking time to build good memories and experiences as a family, kids are going to feel closer to each other and enjoy each other more. (Trust me. It’s hard for the kids to be bickering with each other when they’re too busy laughing together.)

Give them responsibility for each other…but not too much responsibility.

From the time they were little, we’ve tried to teach our kids to take responsibility for their siblings. By asking older ones to “help” watch the baby or bring mom supplies or by asking a much older sibling to help a younger one at bath time, we’ve tried to communicate the idea that in a family we’re all responsible to help each other. As a result, our kids are typically protective of each other. They are quick to comfort if a sibling is sad or to express anger when someone has hurt a sibling.
One drawback can be giving a naturally mothering older child too much responsibility. This can result in a “bossy” sibling that irritates the others. We’ve learned to make clear delineations about what responsibility the older siblings have. And we try not to constantly put responsibility only on the shoulders of older siblings because I think this can result in some bitterness about having too much responsibility.

Bring the family along.

Anyone who has been a part of an activity that one of our children is doing soon realizes that when you get one of us, you usually get us all. We’ve always tried to make a point of bringing the family along to each child’s “thing.” When Charles played soccer, we all went and watched games. If Daddy helps coach, chances are another kid or two is often around as well. The whole family watched football when Charles played and Kathryne cheered this fall. We’ve all been around when Kathryne and Rachel practice praise and worship dance. Ashlyne is heavily involved in gymnastics. And the folks at the gym know our other kids as well because we try to bring the family along to meets or when we volunteer for things. We try to make a point to the kids that we support each other because we are a family.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we drag everybody to every event. We don’t want to burn them out. Sometimes a gymnastic meet is long. Football games are long. Swim meets- when Rachel was on swim team- were really long. For the kids not involved it can seem to take forever. So we try to balance being there and being supportive with being reasonable and not making every kid come to every event.

Don’t tolerate unkindness.

We tend to be a teasing, sometimes sarcastic family. Teasing can be fine if everyone is laughing. But as soon as someone doesn’t think it’s funny, it needs to stop. We don’t ever want to tolerate unkindness. Although it might be easy to let things slip sometimes, calling names or saying deliberately unkind things shouldn’t be tolerated.
Of course the way we talk to each other as parents and to our kids is the model for how they talk to each other. So when the kids get snappy with each other, I have to stop and think about how I’ve been sounding lately.

Work together…literally.

Physical work brings a family together. When there is a job that a few siblings can work on together or that mom or dad can work on with a group of kids, the family comes together. Kids will realize that working in agreement will get much more done than arguing and bickering. Having a shared responsibility can make family members feel like part of a team.
Another way to work together is to serve together. Get the whole family involved in a service project to help others. Bake cookies for a homeless shelter. Pack shoeboxes for Christmas gifts for Operation Christmas Child. Have a yard sale to raise money for a mission you want to support. When the whole family is involved in serving together, it’s hard to be snapping and grouching at each other.
Prevent sibling bickering
Bonus: If you’re looking for more ideas for helping your kids establish healthy sibling relationships, check out these sibling-themed family devotion sets.

There will still be times the kids bicker and argue. And there will still be unkindness between siblings on occasion. But putting some of these things into practice can at least get the whole family on the same team…most of the time.

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