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#95 Easing Sibling Rivalry-Part 2

Season #2


Welcome back to the continuation of our parent coaching session with Caitlin! If you missed part one, don't worry, you can catch up on episode number 94 where we delved into the challenges Caitlin is facing with her children.

In part one, we peeled back the layers to uncover what's driving the tension in Caitlin's household. We discussed how her oldest child's frustration and jealousy were manifesting in conflicts with his siblings, diving deep into the dynamics at play within the family unit.

Today, in part two, we're rolling up our sleeves and diving into solutions. From fostering individual connections with each child to effectively intervening in sibling squabbles, we'll tackle actionable steps to bring more harmony to Caitlin's family and yours.

So, whether you're facing similar challenges or simply looking to enhance your parenting toolkit, I'm thrilled to have you here. So, without further ado, let's jump into part two of our parent coaching session!


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SHOW NOTES: (For Full Show Notes, Links, and Episode Resources, Visit Episode Website)

Hey there, wonderful listeners! Thanks a ton for tuning in to Episode 94. I hope you've been enjoying the episode so far. Today's discussion dives deep into the world of sibling dynamics, exploring conflict resolution strategies and the art of repairing relationships. I recently had a fascinating conversation with Caitlin, where we unpacked various scenarios and effective approaches to fostering healthy sibling relationships. So, let's jump right in!

Caitlin opened up about the sense of panic she feels when her kids are at odds with each other. It's a common experience for many parents. The urge to jump in and resolve the conflict immediately is strong, but often, our instincts lead us astray.

Instead, I introduced Caitlin to  what I call the "3 Do's of Incident Management," a simple yet effective approach to handling sibling conflicts:

  1. Do No Harm: The first step is for us, as parents, to ground ourselves and avoid reacting impulsively. This means taking a moment to breathe and remind ourselves not to escalate the situation. I  suggest  having a phrase like "do no harm" as a quick mantra to center ourselves in these moments.
  2. Do Take Charge (of Circumstances): Rather than trying to control our kids' behaviors, which can often feel like herding cats, I advised Caitlin to focus on managing the circumstances surrounding the conflict. This might involve separating the children involved or removing the source of contention. By taking charge of the situation, we create space for everyone to cool down.
  3. Do Circle Back Later: Once the immediate tension has subsided, it's essential to revisit the conflict with our kids. This is where the real work happens. We validate their feelings, encourage empathy, and work together to find solutions. By circling back later, we create an opportunity for repair and growth within the sibling relationship.

Guiding Children Through Repair:

Now, let's talk about how we guide our kids through the process of making amends after a fight. During the conversation with Caitlin, I  emphasized the importance of first validating their feelings and encouraging empathy:

  • Validate Feelings: It's crucial to acknowledge and validate the emotions of each child involved without judgment or blame. Do so in private with just one child at a time. Create a safe space for honest communication by letting them know that their feelings are valid and understood.
  • Encourage Empathy: Next, we help our child see things from the other child’s  perspective. This is best done after the frustration has subsided and the child seems to be feeling a sense of remorse. This fosters empathy and understanding, allowing them to recognize the impact of their actions on their sibling.
  • Facilitate Apology and Repair: Finally, we guide them in expressing remorse and finding ways to make amends. Follow your child’s lead and the way they are feeling moved towards making things right. This might involve offering apologies, sharing toys or treats, or simply listening to each other's feelings. The goal is to promote mutual respect and strengthen the bond between siblings.

 Ideas to Help Improve Sibling Rivalry Stemming from Jealousy 

Caitlin expressed feeling spread too thin and feeling like filling her children’s “connection cups” was difficult. She also shared that she didn’t really enjoy playing with her kids and even questioned if inserting herself into their imaginary play was in their best interest. I shared with her a few solutions to help her kids feel pursued by her and “trumping” her children’s needs. 

Solution: “Special Time”

I suggested that Caitlin (and her husband)  create an intentional time for 1:1 connection with each of her children for the primary purpose of strengthening and securing the parent/child attachments. Here is some additional guidance on “Special Time”:

  • 10-15 min. high quality, 1:1 time, per day.
  • Give it a unique name if “special time” doesn’t work for you or your child.
  • Make this time scheduled and guaranteed (not something that can be taken away due to undesirable behavior, etc.).
  • This needs to be distraction-free time for play and connection.
  • This is not time that is tied to another agenda item, like part of the bedtime routine, part of taking a child to daycare or school drop-off, etc. although it could immediately precede an agenda item like this.
  • No need to plan a big activity. Keep it simple and just focus on connecting with your child. 
  • Avoid viewing media on screens during “special time.”
  • It's ok to let your child know the timeframe and a timer can be used to keep things on schedule (unless this seems to cause too much stress).

****Do not use it as a time to remind, nag, ask about homework, or talk about behavior problems or incidents. This is all about connection and fun.

(If you're interested in seeing some sample activities you can try during “special time,” be sure to check out the link to a special time calendars to help you plan meaningful activities with your children.)

Solution: Infuse Connection into Everyday Activities

Another strategy I shared with Caitlin was to think of connecting with her kids as something she can embed into all of her interactions with the kids. It doesn’t have to feel like just another item on her to do list. Simple things can make a big difference. Here are some examples:

  • Invite into your presence: ask kids to hang out in an area where you are doing chores or even better, invite kids to help out doing chores together. 
  • Seek Before Being Sought: Another idea, seek before being sought-this means, rather than waiting for kids to feel a sense of disconnect which leads them to come find you or act out in a frustrating manner, find out where they are and engage with them first.  This keeps the connection cup full. 
  • Greet with a Sense of Delight: Finally, think about how you respond when you first see your child after school or when they come into your presence at home. This is a perfect time to light up and give your child a clear sense of significance. To get a twinkle in your eye and say something like, “I was just thinking about you.” It is a small yet profound shift that helps a child feel deeply attached.  

I hope the strategies discussed in this episode have provided valuable insights for you, Caitlin, and for all our listeners. Remember, as parents, it's our responsibility to nurture a strong connection with our children, not our children’s role to work for it or hold on to it. Understanding that the need for connection is fundamental, even surpassing basic necessities, and helps us prioritize meaningful interactions with our kids.

While parenting may not always be easy, implementing simple strategies like scheduling one-on-one time can make a significant difference. By setting aside dedicated moments for quality interactions, we reassure our children of our unwavering support and love.

Thank you for tuning in, and until next time!

Episode Resources:
CLICK HERE to Download "Special Time" Sample Calendars and Blank Planning Calendars