To help siblings get along more often, use Brainstorming, Bonding, and Boundaries. From the moment the twin brothers were born, siblings Donald and Donnie were complete opposites; yin and yang.
Donald was the “naughty” one. He was always causing mischief with his countless pranks, and getting Donnie into trouble.
Donnie was the “nice” one; a bright, cheerful soul who saw the best in everyone and everything. He tried hard to avoid Donald’s schemes, but somehow Donnie always got dragged in.
Still, Donnie stayed a patient and forgiving brother who believed that someday his twin would change for the better.
One day, after a particularly trying incident where Donnie was unjustly blamed for Donald’s actions, Donnie had finally had enough. He knew getting angry with Donald never changed anything, so he came up with a plan to show his twin the impact of his actions.
With the help of his favorite aunt, Donnie showed Donald how hurt he was by literally drawing him a picture. He drew simple little stick figure pictures that showed what happened and how he felt. He even drew a picture of how he imagined Donald must have felt.
Donald was interested in the stories. They even made him laugh, although he did feel bad when he was able to see the hurt he had caused. Their aunt helped them name the feelings they were experiencing and how their actions affected others.
Their aunt then asked them what kind of things they liked to do. They took turns shouting out their favorite activities. Turns out, both boys loved to go and get ice cream. They made a plan with their aunt to go once a week together. During the week they talked about what kind of ice cream they would get, whether they would get sprinkles or whipped cream, and what new flavor they wanted to try.
As the boys began to get along better, their aunt guided them to speak up about their different needs: what toys they wanted to share and didn’t, when they wanted to be left alone, and how they could ask each other for what they wanted with kindness and respect.
The more fun, respect, and compassion they shared, the more they wanted to spread it around.
Donnie started to show videos to Donald of people doing kind acts for each other. They were both drawn to ones where people did nice things to a complete stranger.
One day when they went for ice cream with their aunt, they asked her if they could pay for the person behind them in line. They giggled and poked each other with excitement and joy at their shared act of generosity.
Over time, the twins became inseparable partners in spreading love, patience, and understanding. Their family marveled at the transformation of Donald and Donnie, and they became known as the Dynamic Duo of Positivity.
Donald and Donnie used their yin and yang nature to complement each other and left a trail of smiles and admiration wherever they went.
Below are 3 Tips to Help Siblings Get Along
1. Share a Favorite Activity
Set up a casual family meeting time to help your kids brainstorm a list of their favorite activities.
Take a big sheet of paper, markers, and let them draw or write activities they enjoy doing. Let them know no idea is out of bounds. They can be simple: eating a favorite snack, watching funny shows, or playing board games. Or activities they want to try: skateboarding, diving, or dance.
Circle the activities everyone enjoys doing or wants to try doing.
Establish and commit to a regular time of the week or month dedicated to the siblings doing one of these activities together. Talk it up as something to look forward to.
Setting an intentional time together with a shared interest will go a long way to creating a strong sibling bond.
2. Respect Boundaries
Sibling relationships thrive when healthy boundaries are established, communicated, and respected, especially around the need for physical space and respect for each other’s property.
Make it a rule in your home, that when someone asks for a break from a family member, they’re allowed to take it. If your home allows for physical separation such as their own rooms, let them have their alone time. If there isn’t an opportunity for physical separation, you can create it by redirecting them to different areas of the house.
Also, setting house rules for personal property establishes trust and respect.
A family rule can be that each member has to ask the owner before playing with or using their item.
Decide in advance which items won’t be shared: a treasured stuffed animal, a favorite sweater, or an expensive electronic, and designate a specific area (e.g., a shelf) in the home for these items.
3. Break Challenging Patterns
Sometimes sibling conflict feels like the same struggle over and over.
The first step in changing a pattern is to help your kids recognize it.
Get your kids together when everyone is in a calm and open mood, and try drawing out the pattern on paper. Ask them to identify a typical fight or challenge, and their usual response, actions, and feelings.
They could draw their sister taking a shirt from their closet without asking (Stick figures work great) They can draw the yelling, anger, and any other outcomes that usually happen.
Help each child label the feelings they experience and guide them to think about their sibling’s feelings as well. Get creative and use color to deepen the lesson. A stick figure with a red face and X’s over the eyes can help them explore consequences and how to manage emotions.
After the conflict is explored, help them choose a “pattern breaker”, such as talking about their feelings, doing something to make their sibling laugh, or walking away to do some deep breathing.
Remind them to use this pattern breaker when old conflicts arise, so they can shift their focus to the new, healthy pattern.
Teaching patience and respect takes patience and respect
Siblings can learn tools that help them to get along better, but remember it takes time to change a pattern.
As an adult supporting children, you can be a good role model by learning how to communicate your own needs, ask for what you want, respect other people’s boundaries, identify emotions, communicate when calm, and make time for sharing fun activities together.