Sibling battles in our family

Posted by  | Wednesday, September 29, 2010  at 1:45 PM  
My girls are 20 months apart: Karis is 3 1/2 and Karlie is 20 months. We didn't have any problems until Karlie was about 5 months old and started crawling... right to Karis' toys! At first, Karis was really tickled that Karlie could crawl, but she soon realized that Karlie put all her toys in her mouth and chewed on them! YUCK! It is amazing how quickly a toddler can learn the word "mine!" :) While Karlie was so little and some of Karis' toys could be dangerous for her, we quickly taught Karis which ones she had to share and which ones she had to play with on the table, on the couch, or on her bed where Karlie could not reach her. She also saved several special toys for when Karlie was taking her morning nap. That seemed to make sense to Karis; she loved the idea that some toys were just for her and and this point she was still fascinated by the "baby" and she really enjoyed playing with Karlie with the toys that were safe for her.

So we really didn't have too many problems after that until Karlie was about a year old and started walking and could reach everything. Karlie had no fear and would just tackle Karis (who was twice her size :) and grab whatever was in her hand! At first Karis was amazed and would just stare at her in disbelief, but as it got more common, she started taking matters into her own hands, screaming "no Karlie!" and grabbing the toy back. This is still the major struggle in our house, 8 months later, as Karlie is usually the instigator in most disagreements. She absolutely LOVES to get Karis' attention by taking her toy and running away! But I can encourage you in that we can definitely see progress :)

We have a very similar approach to Leah in that we want to get to the heart of the girls, rather than just demand perfect behavior. At our house a key word is "kind." The girls know what it means and know how to show kindness because we talk about it often. When they have a disagreement, I always ask if they are being kind. I ask Karlie if Karis likes it when she takes the toy. I ask Karis if she thinks it makes Karlie happy when she screams at her. So instead of "who had the toy first?" we bypass that and they immediately know that they are both in the wrong. After addressing their hearts, I do address the behavior. I reprimand Karlie for taking the toy and if it is a repeated offense, I spank her. I also usually give her back the toy to hold and instruct Karis to ask her for it in a loving manner (Karlie, would you please give me back my toy?") Then Karlie has to give Karis the toy. If Karis has assaulted her in any way to get the toy back, then Karis will usually get a spanking as well. And if Karis has been hoarding the toy, we have discussions on sharing.

This scenario has been played out many times in our house with slight variations over the last 8 months, and it does get tiresome to walk them through it, step by step, every time. But I want to encourage you that it is worth it and they are definitely learning! I've been in the kitchen doing dishes and have heard Karis saying, "no Karlie; I had that; please give that back to me!" instead of the normal shrieking and it melts my heart. And often, when Karis isn't giving her attention by getting upset at her, Karlie will actually calmly give it back!

Another issue we have just recently started dealing with is Karis telling her sister when she has something that Karlie cannot have. Karis currently has a big pink sparkly ring that she loves and whenever she finds it to put on, she will go right to Karlie and say, "Karlie, this ring is for me; it is not for you!!" I don't think she is actually trying to be unkind, but she just wants to make sure Karlie leaves her precious ring alone! Of course, as soon as Karlie sees it, she starts fussing to have it! And the same scenario plays out with other favorites: food, clothes, and other things that are indeed Karis'. So we are really working on trying to make her understand that she is not being kind when she says such things to Karlie and I usually make her let Karlie play with it for a while.

So what kind of things do your children struggle together with? I'd love to hear any ideas you have for dealing with any kind of sibling rivalry!

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