July 12, 2023

Peaceful Summers: How Parents Can Foster Cooperation And Minimize Sibling Rivalry

Dancing Moose Montessori School
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Summer weather brings outside play, road trips, picnics, and often– sibling rivalry. Sibling fights
about what is "fair" and interactions that end in tears are exhausting for the whole family.

So what can a summer parent do to encourage positive interactions with family members?
First, recognize that this happens in all families in some form. Children are learning what
interactions or behaviors get reactions (positive and negative!) from others, and are trying them
out in their safe family environment.

Before playtimes together:

  1. “Preload” each play time together. Before children start a game, get out some toys, or
    run outside, ask thoughtful questions such as:

    • “What will we do if someone feels mad?”
    • ”Who will be making the rules of the game?”
    • ”What will we say if we want to add some ideas to the game? Should we have a code
      word?”
    • ”What can you say if you need a parent’s help?”
  2. Capitalize skills and build empathy! What is your child amazing at? If you have a child
    that can ride a bike really well, talk with them about how they could teach their sibling.
    Teach how it will take patience and guidance to help their siblings. Give them phrases to
    use to motivate them. This guidance is giving your child words and skills to guide and
    teach their sibling in a positive way!
  3. Don’t assume that children understand what “being kind” means. By being very specific
    in actions and words, define what kindness looks like to others.

    • What does it mean to “be kind” to my brother?
    • What does it mean to “be kind” to my friends when we use the swings?

To encourage positive interactions with family members:

  1. Hold family meetings often. During these meetings discuss what is tricky in your day.
    Begin with, “I’ve noticed that…..” (example: we are arguing during outside play). Begin
    brainstorming with, “What can we do to enjoy this time together?”
  2. Use teamwork words for your family. By describing your family as a team, and referring
    to times together as “teamwork”, you build your child’s perception of working together for
    a common goal. Teamwork also implies that everyone has a part to have success!
  3. Use phrases that children will hear often and can become their inner speech.
    A few examples are:

    • It can be hard to take turns. But that is what a team does best!
    • I can listen to my sister, and hear her ideas. Teammates work together!
    • Being kind means I don’t push or pull my brother.
    • It’s ok to make mistakes! I’m always learning!
    • Families treat each other with love.

Last but not least: Timers are a parent’s best friend! Instead of being the enforcer of when
playtime is over or when we have to leave the park, use a timer! Have all children present as
they decide on the time and set the timer (on your phone) together. Turn up the volume so that
when the timer goes off, it’s the signal to everyone that our time is finished.
It’s ok to commiserate with your children that you’re sad to leave the park too! However, we set
the timer together, and the timer shows we are finished.
Timers are also great for taking turns. When each child wants to be in charge, set a timer to let
children know when the next child begins their turn.

Remind yourself often that you are doing amazing things and raising amazing kids! As they
learn to communicate and grow with their siblings, they will gain a deeper respect for the gift of
family.

– Michelle Edvik, Dancing Moose Education Coach

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July 12, 2023

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