Just because they share genes doesn't mean siblings know how to share. Here are some pointers for parents of siblings who love to fight about making your home more harmonious.
1. Teach them how to be friends.
“All kids need to learn social skills for handling conflict,” says Dr. Laura Markham, “which is an important part of their EQ, or Emotional Intelligence Quotient. She offers specific advice about how to prevent fighting as well as how to intervene when fighting does happen.
2. Don’t make assumptions based on gender or age difference.
“Parents imagine that the difference in age between the siblings is an important factor,” write Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman of NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. “But the research is entirely mixed—for every study that concludes age differences matter, there's another study proving it doesn't.” One good predictor, according to NurtureShock, of how well two siblings will get along is, actually, the quality of the older child's relationship with his best friend.
3. Encourage fantasy play.
Describing the work of Laurie Kramer and John Gottman, NurtureShock’s authors explain that fantasy play is truly high-level. “They have to articulate what's in their mind's eye—and negotiate some scenario that allows both their visions to come alive. When one kid just announced the beginning of a ninja battle, but the other wants to be a cowboy, they have to figure out how to still ride off into the sunset together.” Maybe it’s time to install a rack of costumes in that shared bedroom?
contributions from Frankie Thomas and Ilya Tsinis