Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

No Friend Like a Sibling

The walls of my two boys’ bedroom are decorated with signs that read, There’s no buddy like a brother, and, Brothers are better than superheroes. The same sorts of messages adorn the walls of the playroom where my daughter and my two boys play: Siblings, a little piece of childhood that can never be lost.

My children are all close in age: Avery is 9, Rilee is 6, and Reece is 5. This means they’re destined to become lifelong best friends… right? Isn’t that the dream of all parents with multiple children?

Siblings are bound to be best friends... right?

For me it is one of my greatest hopes as a parent. I daydream about the three of them as grownups: the boys loading up their families into minivans and heading over to Avery’s house for a Saturday barbecue, Avery calling up Reece to ask him to babysit her children or her five dogs, Rilee texting a joke to his brother and allowing the two of them to take a break from their busy work weeks to share a laugh.

Yep, I can see it all very clearly. If only I can keep them from fighting long enough to lead them toward a path of lifelong friendship. At this stage in their lives, it seems like they argue about everything from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they go to sleep at night.

I know sibling rivalry is normal. I have a sister only 19 months older than me. We shared a room, toys, friends, cars and we did our fair share of arguing. I’m sure there were moments when our mother wondered if we would grow up and never speak to each other again. I remember my grandma always telling us, “You girls are so lucky to have each other.” It was only later in life that I realized what she meant. Siblings are an amazing gift to each other but they can often drive their parents nuts with the constant bickering.

So, what can parents do to save their sanity when siblings argue? I’ve read a lot of parent blogs and articles on sibling rivalry, and they all offer similar advice: hide in the bathroom until the kids figure it out.

While I am joking, this suggestion does have some truth to it. Many parents agree that letting your children work together to solve their disagreement is best. There is no need to intervene when you hear those first all-too-familiar sounds of children shouting, “Give it back!” and “Don’t touch me!” Instead wait, listen and if they come to you, encourage them to think of ways to solve the problem on their own. Ask them, what could you have done differently? What can you do now?

At our house we make “sorry cards” because sometimes it’s easier to put thoughts into writing, especially when we are upset. If your little one is having a hard time explaining what went wrong and expressing their feelings, you can try making a sorry card. I think they are great because even young children can make them. If they can’t write words have them draw a picture.

Another favorite in our house to combat the sibling drama is alone time. Everybody go to your room! Sometimes taking a break from each other is exactly what they need, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they are eager to return to playing together. In a matter of minutes they can go from doors slamming and “Never talk to me again!” to doors opening and “Mom can alone time be over? I miss my brother.”

For now I won’t worry about the fact that that my daughter makes her own sibling-inspired signs to decorate her bedroom walls: Rilee and Reece not allowed, and, I’m a lone wolf. I won’t worry because every weekend night she sneaks into the boys’ room to sleep with them, and the boys happily welcome their sister. This sibling sleepover has become a little tradition of theirs and gives hope to my daydreams … even if in the morning I awake to someone complaining about someone else’s sweaty feet touching them.

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