Sibling Rivalry: Success Stories

"What helps me deal with the grabbing is the idea of accepting the feelings but redirecting the unacceptable behavior. For instance, if one of my girls snatches a toy from another, I'll say, 'Oh Casey, you really want to play with Emily's bubble wand -- right now. It's hard to wait. The rule is no grabbing things from anyone. But you can tell Emily you want to use it next. She's good at sharing.'

Then I'll say to Emily, 'When you're finished blowing bubbles with your magic wand, would you please tell Casey because she wants to play with it next.' Then I take Casey's hand and say, 'Let's find another toy that's interesting while we're waiting.' The trick, and I can't always do it, is to try to take care of both of their needs and both of their feelings at the same time."

Playing Together
"I try to think of as many activities as possible that my twenty-month-old and four-year-old can enjoy together. Tracy blows bubbles for Patty so Patty can pop them. Tracy marches around the room while Patty bangs on the drum. One sits on a fire truck while the other one pushes. One drives the truck while the other is the traffic policeman who says when to stop and when to go. It all helps."

Problem Solving
"Whenever I hear screaming or crying from the next room my first impulse is to run in and accuse the older one of hurting the younger one {I'm guilty!!}. I know how bad that would be for their relationship, yet I can't ignore the crying. Recently I came up with a great solution. I called out, 'I hear crying. Do you need help or can you work it out yourselves?' The first time I said it there was a long silence. Then I heard the big one say, 'We can work it out.' And that what he says now most of the time when I use that approach. But he also feels free to call me in and tell me about the problem. And that's fine with me. I want both my boys to know that it's legitimate to ask for help when they need it."

Encouraging Positive Relationship
"When the kids are running wildly through the house and the big one accidentally crashes into the little one and the little one comes crying to me, 'Tony knocked me down,' I say, 'Oh no! You didn't want that to happen. You two were having so much fun together.' That seems to help both boys recoup much faster and remind them of their good relationship."

"Sometimes I let my boys overhear me talking about the fun things they do when they're together. I'll tell my husband, in front of the kids, 'Do you know what Danny (four) taught Sam (two) today? He showed him how to jump from the stool to the beanbag chair.' Danny gives a big grin. 'And Sam had the idea of hiding under the beanbag chair and pretending to be a turtle.' And then Sam grins." 

Avoiding Locked-in Roles
"This is my first attempt at helping Hal (the bully) and Timmy (the weakling) see themselves differently. I hear noises in the bedroom I don't like. I investigate and find Hal, grinning, sitting on top of Timmy who's pinned to the floor. I'm about to yell, 'Hal, get off him! NOW, you big lummox, before you kill him!' But then I remember...
Me: (Trying to sound casual) Well Timmy, it's a good thing you have a brother who can teach you to roughhouse without being too rough. (Hal looks amazed)
Me: And Timmy, it's a good thing you're tough and can take it. (Now Timmy looks amazed)
I leave the room and pray."