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How to Foster Healthy Sibling Relationships

How to Foster Healthy Sibling Relationships

As a mom of six kids, I have witnessed my fair share of sibling disagreements. I have also had the pleasure of witnessing the heart-melting moments when siblings stick up for each other, cheer each other on, and generally love being together. While sibling fights are normal, and even healthy, as kids learn to work through disagreements in an appropriate way, most parents want to foster strong sibling relationships that will stand the test of time. Here are some tips to help your kids build healthy, lasting friendships with one another.

Encourage teamwork

Working towards a common goal can help people feel connected and build stronger relationships. This is why companies spend time doing team building exercises with their staff. The same is true in families. Give the kids a project, like cleaning the toy room or freshening up the landscaping in the yard and have them work on it as a team. You can even try making it a competition such as challenging the kids to clean a room faster than their parents. Playing board games or backyard sports with teams can also have the same team building effects.

Have fun together

Spending time together as a family doing things that you enjoy is a simple way to build sibling bonds. Pick something that everyone can participate in such as a bike ride, a movie night, or a fun outing that builds memories and relationships. “My kids love having sleepovers in each other’s rooms each weekend.” says Stephanie Loux, mom of three. “It makes a mess and it’s not always convenient for us as parents, but we love and encourage their excitement for spending time together.”  

Healthy conflict

Settling disagreements in a healthy and respectful way is a tool that all of us need to learn to be successful. A sibling is usually the first person in our lives that we disagree with on a regular basis. This  gives parents an opportunity to teach kids how to handle conflict. “We teach them to tell each other when they are hurting emotionally or physically.” says Abby Vanden Hull, mom of four. “In the beginning that means helping them find the words and talk to each other kindly. It also means stepping back and letting them sort out their problems whenever possible.” Teach your kids to listen, take turns speaking, use kind words,refrain from criticism or physical violence, and come to a compromise whenever possible. These skills will serve them well in all areas of their lives.

Do not compare

As parents, it can be difficult not to compare children. Each child has their own unique gifts to foster and challenges to face as they grow. Try to focus on acknowledging and appreciating their gifts and encouraging everyone in the family to do so. When they are struggling with behaviors that other kids may not have found challenging, be patient and help them work through it as a family. When kids feel like their parents are comparing them, it can cause jealousy, competition, and resentment.. Alternatively, when they feel like their gifts are cultivated and appreciated they feel loved, valued, and secure. It also helps kids to understand that all of us are different and that is okay.

The importance of family

Our siblings are our first friends. They have a unique perspective and relationship to us because they have experienced nearly everything we have during childhood. This often leads to a relationship that includes deep understanding and support for challenges we may face in the future. This concept is difficult to explain to small children, however the importance of family is something that can be shown through actions rather than explained using words. Do you have a good relationship with your own siblings? Do you support them in times of need and enjoy spending time with them? Your kids will notice. Over time, they will realize that there is nothing like a sibling who is also a friend.


source: creativechild

The Four Goals of Misbehavior Series: Part One

The Four Goals of Misbehavior Series: Part One

When is the last time your child’s behavior completely baffled you? What causes children to misbehave when, in your view, they clearly should know better? It can be hard to understand what is motivating your child to behave, but understanding what drives behavior is a key component of positive parenting. When we seek to understand that is motivating our children, we are better able to address the cause of the behavior rather than reacting to the behavior itself. That is where real change takes place – at the root. If we don’t address it there, it will just keep cropping up again and again.

I recently discovered the work of Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs. He was a psychiatrist who founded and was the medical director of the Community Child Guidance Center in Chicago. Dreikurs was influenced by social psychologist Alfred Adler who believed that the central motivation of all humans is to belong and be accepted by others. He believed that all behavior was purposeful and directed toward achieving social approval. Dreikurs suggested that all misbehavior is eh result of a child’s mistaken assumption about how to find a place and gain status. He did not believe in using punishment, rewards, or praise to change behavior, but rather that natural consequences and encouragement were the most useful techniques for preventing misbehavior.

Following is an overview of the first two of Dreikurs’ four goals of misbehavior along with my own suggestions on how to deal with each one.

Goal one: Attention

One of the common motivators of misbehavior, according to Dreikurs, is to get attention. This is driven by the belief that they do not matter (belong) unless they are being noticed or served. Children who are seeking attention with negative behaviors feel insignificant. Parents are often told to ignore children when they appear to be seeking attention because it is a popular opinion that giving children the attention they seek will reward or reinforce negative behaviors. Relating to this advice, Dr. Gordon Neufeld of the Neufeld Institute says this: “What else is there to want? And if we see a child who wants attention, why wouldn’t we give it to them? Why wouldn’t we meet these basic needs of affection, attention, of mattering and significance?”

From a Positive Parenting standpoint, behavior is always communication. When children seek attention in negative ways, this is a cry for help. By ignoring the child, we are ignoring their plea. When children are clingy and needy and we ignore this need, we are rejecting them. If children are seeking attention and attachment, they are in need of attention and attachment, so we can at least begin to understand their behavior and formulate a response from this place rather than from an idea that they are needlessly seeking attention and should be ignored. This doesn’t mean, of course, that you necessarily give in to demands or rearrange your plans. It simply means that you first seek to understand what is driving the behavior. When children are exhibiting troubling behavior that appears to be attention-seeking, you can set a limit on that behavior while still providing the attention and love needed by following the 3 steps to positive discipline discussed in full detail here.

Goal two: Power

It’s no wonder children feel so powerless. They have very little control in their lives, and of course they shouldn’t have too much power yet because they haven’t matured enough to make knowledgeable, wise decisions, but seeking control isn’t a bad thing. Think of the anxiety you feel when you don’t have control! Though the behaviors that children use to gain control are frustrating, we can take a step back and look at what is motivating them.

Our tendency is to feel that our authority is being threatened and anger is a common response to this threat, so our first reaction is often to posture ourselves for a fight. It’s a natural reaction when we feel threatened, so one of the things we practice in Positive Parenting is softening and responding. Children won’t hear us until they feel heard themselves, so when we try to shut down their feelings or their voices, they naturally push back, and we find ourselves locked in a power struggle that no one really wins. However, by meeting our child with empathy, we can reset the tone of the interaction. It may be something as simple as, “I hear you” or “I understand.” When spoken genuinely, empathy is a powerful diffuser of power struggles because it communicates “I understand you and I’m on your side.”

My advice is to offer a reasonable choice or alternative. Kids hear no a lot, and many of those no’s are necessary. However, it is very frustrating to be told no all the time and to have so little control over your own life. Is there an alternative you could offer that makes you both happy? Sometimes I think we are afraid that offering choices and negotiating are signs of weak parenting and we are afraid these actions compromise our authority, but I believe it shows kids that we respect them as individuals, and this inspires them to respect us more.

Another tip is to disengage without disconnecting. When disengaging from a power struggle, we are effectively ending the conversation with a “that’s final.” However, there are two ways to do this, one that disconnects and one that invites connection. As you might imagine, “Because I said so and that’s final! One more word about it and you’re grounded!” might be effective at ending the power struggle (or it might not!) but it leaves the relationship with your child on shaky ground. We can stick to our guns and say the same thing but in a way that isn’t so harsh. Instead, try saying “I love you too much to argue with you, so let’s not discuss this any further. If you need to take some time to cool off, you can. When you are ready, I’d love for you to come and find me.” This communicates I’m not willing to change my position but I still love you and I want you around, and those last two messages are vital to a strong connection and to a child’s self-worth.


written by Rebecca Eanes 

Dragon Treasure Sensory Bin

Dragon Treasure Sensory Bin

Set up a simple sensory bin with sand and a handful of treasures. Add some dragons or just pretend to be a dragon and you’ll have a dragon treasure sensory bin that kids will love. I get commissions for purchases made through the affiliate links in this post.

Dragon Treasure Sensory Bin - set up a simple sensory bin with colored sand, treasures, and dragons.

Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon! is fun read about a little dragon who likes to fly through the kingdom getting into all sorts of trouble. Penguin Kids sent us a copy of the book for review. Baby dragon is constantly on the go. A little girl decides to keep up with dragon. She narrates the story. Each scene begins with her saying “Baby dragon, baby dragon…” and then describing what she sees. This line feels like it should lead the book in rhythm and rhyme but it doesn’t. The book doesn’t lose anything by not rhyming though.

The book reminds me of a young child’s adventures. They often do everything full speed ahead and sometimes end up with a mess in their wake. The little girl praises the dragon for its accomplishments and ignores the rest.

Dragon Treasure Sensory Bin

In the book Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon! the dragon has a cave full of treasures. There are stacks of crowns, sea shells, colorful sticks, gems, and more. Inspired by the dragon’s treasure, I created a dragon treasure sensory bin.

Dragon Treasure Sensory Bin - set up a simple sensory bin with colored sand, treasures, and dragons.

The simple sensory bin is made with colored sand and treasures.

I like to use the Crayola colored play sand. It comes in a variety of colors – blue, green, pink, and purple. I’ve included an Amazon link so you can check out the product. It’s available in the spring/summer at Walmart for about $7 while supplies last. Amazon usually sells it for over $20 plus shipping.

I used a shoe size storage bin and a slightly larger bin for my two kids (ages 5 and 3).

For our treasures, I used a combination of gold coins, treasure chests, polished rocks, and toy dragons. Be sure to use age appropriate treasures and watch out for items that are too small as they can be a choking hazard for kids who like to put things in their mouths.

Dragon Treasure Sensory Bin - set up a simple sensory bin with colored sand, treasures, and dragons.

Add a layer of sand. Add the treasure. Then, bury the treasure.

Dragon Treasure Sensory Bin - set up a simple sensory bin with colored sand, treasures, and dragons.

Then, it’s time to dig for the treasure. Use your hands, a shovel, or a small cup. I also gave my kids a bowl to place their found treasures in.

Sensory bins are great for pretend play. Blue colored sand with toy dragons shown.

Sensory bins are great for encouraging pretend play. My kids had the dragons bury and uncover their treasures over and over again. They had some fun dialogue going as well.

Sensory bins are great for pretend play. Blue colored sand with toy dragons shown.



Source: inspirationlaboratories