Siblings all over Australia spent the weekend playing happily together, then fighting, then playing again. Some research shows that younger siblings fight on average every 17 minutes. How did your kids go? It's challenging to help kids play well with their siblings. But if we can spend a few minutes every now and then, coaching and talking them through starting play, maintaining play, managing conflict and ending play kindly - then the rewards are great - for them and us.
Have a think for a moment about what skills are involved in siblings playing well together. I've made a list of things kids need to be able to do:
- Start the play – i.e make a suggestion about what to do and how, and invite their sibling to join in
- Maintain the game/play – come up with new ideas about what to do next when things get boring
- Compromise and be flexible when their ideas don’t work or are rejected
- Help out a sibling when they get stuck, hurt or frustrated
- Calm themselves down when they get angry
- Adjust rules or expectations when other siblings can’t cope with the current play
- Be able to follow directions or suggestions made by siblings
- End the play gently when they have had enough without hurting people’s feelings
How skilled are your children at doing each of these things? More importantly, what is one skill you can pick to work on with them this week. A five minute conversation with one of them (when they are not already fighting or upset) covering that particular skill might save hours later in dealing with fights.
If you'd like to read more about this issue: I've been following the work of Dr. Laurie Kramer on this topic recently - really interesting read for those interested.