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Ask Dr. Meg: Helping Siblings Get Along

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dear Dr. Meg,

My question for you is:  How can I teach my children to get along and to build strong relationships with each other?

I have 4 siblings, but we fought all the time growing up and really have no relationship now as adults.  I do not want this for my two daughters who are currently 4 and 18 months.  I want them to be friends for life.  I know that they will fight a little, but I don’t want it to last into their adult years.


Mom of 2

Dear Mom of 2:

I hear you. It’s important that your kids grow up to love and respect one another. The best things that you can do are: model respectful, loving speech. Kids usually mimic what they see, eventually. Second, as they grow older, take them to do things together that require fun and cooperation- camping is a great way to help siblngs bond. Third, talk positively about their relationship. Rather than let them know that you don’t want them to end up like you and your sibs, tell them that one of the best parts about being in a famiily like yours is is that you will always “have one another’s backs.” Speak to them as though you fully expect this to happen.

So- balance positive instruction and example with reprimand. When my kids were growing up in our home, I told them that they had the freedom to be mad, but they were never allowed to say mean things, swear or break someone else’s stuff when they were mad. The rules applied to everyone. So- if one child was cruel to another, consequences were given.

Be patient because usually many years are required in order for some siblings to grow close. And what I have found, is that when adult siblings don’t get along, there’s usually some parental-family dynamic that is really off. It isn’t just a matter of the kids not liking each other b/c they fought when they were little.

One fun story. A friend of mine was driving when her three kids- ages 8,10 an 11 started fighting. They wouldn’t stop, so she pulled the car to the side of the road and told them that she wouldn’t drive again until each kid said something that he liked about the others. When it got to her 10 year old son’s turn, he said that he liked the way his 11 year old sister looked when she got egg salad stuck in her braces. He was serious but everyone cracked up.

So remember to let kids laugh at themsleves a bit.

Dr. Meg

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