Encouraging a positive relationship between siblings

Nov 2012
Sibling relationships
Sibling relationships offer children a chance to exercise social skills and conflict management

Encouraging a positive relationship between siblings will not only make your life easier but will also assist in their development. Sibling relationships offer children a chance to exercise social skills and conflict management, as well as an understanding of how their actions affect others.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation "just over half of children in the UK live in households containing more than one child, and just under a quarter contain three or more children." With that in mind, here are some ways to nurture positive social relations among siblings.

Set a good example
Your children will observe your interaction with others and will often mirror your behaviour. This includes how you deal with disagreements, so ensure you practice what you preach. Remember, this includes your body language and tone of voice, as well as the words you say.

In the same way as your children will observe you closely, ensure you supervise your children and notice how their relationship is developing. Step back enough to give them the chance to negotiate their own conflicts but step in if they are having trouble coming to a peaceful conclusion.

Encourage negotiation
Playing games will involve your children exercising co-operation and negotiation skills. These are important skills for your children to learn so coach them to sort out disagreements calmly and verbally, without name calling or aggressive behaviour.

Building empathy
If your children have had a squabble, you can help them to see the other's view point with questions relating to their feelings. For example, "How do you think they are feeling right now?" or "How would you feel if they did that to you?"

Don't forget to give praise
When siblings are playing nicely together it is easy to leave them to it and only make comment when interaction turns sour. Remember to praise siblings for positive interaction to reinforce this behaviour and to avoid them relying on disruptive behaviour to get your attention.

Recognise individual strengths
It is important to make a conscious effort to recognise and celebrate each child's individual strengths and achievements. This will be instrumental in each sibling feeling loved and will help to decrease the need for competition.