It was a very brief encounter, for a mere minute or even less. We were in an elevator when a family with two boys walked in. The boys looked like they were 8 and 16, and were doing as brothers always do – annoying each other by poking or jabbing or something like that while half stifling laughter and half telling the other to stop it. One of the parents said something to the effect of, “Eh enough already lah boys!” before they walked out of the elevator. For a split second I thought I’d had an out of body experience!
That short moment made me realize, that siblings, no matter what age, or no matter how large an age gap, will always be there. To play with, to be friends (if not best friends with), to spend nights together, and most importantly, to annoy each other. Having someone to annoy is so much better than going through life alone, isn’t it?
Unfortunately siblings themselves don’t always see it that way. Sure, fighting or annoying each other is common and even a healthy thing, but it can be so emotionally draining for everyone. I find that the most difficult part of having three kids is only that they are sometimes constantly bickering! If they are in good spirits and playing well together, it is bliss. But when they are not….
Some of the things I have been trying to do to minimise the conflict is:
- Get the kids to vocalise their wants and needs instead of resorting to physical pushing or snatching, or grunting and making other noises that does not communicate anything (“You know how to speak right? Say something!”). Or coming to me saying, “MUMMYYYYYY so-and-so this-and-that”. I especially love it when they do that in a whiney tone. Not.
- I’ve realised that there tends to be more conflict when they are bored or have fewer options. If they are fighting over a particular toy, sometimes all it takes is introducing a new toy, and one of them would have forgotten the previous toy. Or they might fight over the new toy too, but just proves that with kids you sometimes really just can’t win. Especially when toddlers are involved.
- Get the kids to recognise the tipping point when playing becomes annoying, or when teasing should stop. Something like “You’re a cow” could be funny the first time, but down right annoying and rude if it’s said 5 times in a row in a mocking tone.
- Make sure that each child feels like they have sufficient attention, that their bucket is filled. With Mittens, as the eldest child, I suspected that he was always subjected to more baby activities than he’d like, and he was constantly antagonising the others, possibly because he was bored with all the baby stuff, or just not getting enough appropriate attention. I found the above Family Rules image which I really liked. (Find the original here, or click on the link above for the webpage where I found it)
All of this is very much work in progress, with some hardly progressing at all. Some even REgressing (good God).
What are some of your best tips for handling sibling rivalry? I would love to hear them!