Sibling Rivalry: How Strengthening Your Bond With Your Kids Can Be A Game Changer

June 1, 2022

So now that we know a few tips on addressing arguments among our kids, what's the next step? Take a look and see other ways to address sibling rivalry in your home.

In our previous blog post about sibling rivalry, we discussed how kids often fight to get your attention. For many parents, this is a trap they fall into too often. While it’s natural to want to step in and defuse it, it’s not the best approach. Instead of being a referee when kids bicker, it is important to be their coach. Help them figure out how to amicably solve the problem. We mentioned a few different way you can achieve this. Often, addressing the arguments in real time can help teach kids how to solve a conflict with another person. Additionally, using this opportunity to teach them communication skills will bolster their skills when seeing an example of how to do so.

However, we know that the same strategy doesn’t work for every family.

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Our child counselors can get to know your unique situation and help you use tried and true methods tailored to you and your family to come up with a game plan. While you’re waiting to start seeing one of our therapists, we have a few other tips and tricks for you to try at home. So far we’ve discussed a few things you can do as a parent to address sibling rivalry in your home. Now, we’ll focus on other ways to address this.

Enhancing your bond and relationship with your child

Another key to ending sibling rivalry and bickering is to make sure each kid is getting what they need from YOU. So many family problems can be solved by spending intentional one-on-one time with each kid.  Now, we’re not implying that you don’t have a great bond with your child. However, our child therapists know that this bond can always be strengthened. Here are a few actionable things you can implement with your child.

15 minutes of child-led play

Child-led play is exactly what it sounds like: playing with your child while following their lead. In child-led play, you play according to their rules. The activity is anything they want, as long as it allows for someone else to join in. A few examples of activities include playing with dolls or toy figurines, blocks, coloring, or any other activity where your child is in charge. Activities like reading or watching tv don’t allow for much interaction, so they aren’t the best option for child-led play.

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“The concept of child-led play comes from the intervention of parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT): a type of therapy that helps to reduce children’s externalizing behaviors by strengthening the parent-child bond. By setting aside time everyday to spend with your child doing something they are interesting in and following their lead, you’ll see a substantial change in their behavior. It’s common for kids to feel even more secure in their relationship with their parents, so they show less attention seeking behavior”, says therapist Alyssa Kohne who is currently becoming certified in PCIT.  

Surprisingly this works as well with 13-year-old as 6-year-olds.

We recommend spending 15 minutes a day with each child, just you and them. This time should be child-led.  Put your phone away! Go to a room just you and your child and ask them what they want to do.  This is not a time to check in about school or practice reading (unless they want to!). Instead, make slime.  Draw.  Find out what it means to be “level three silver” in video game land. Tune in to whatever is going on in their world and them.

Some practical tips for child-led play

Try to make a consistent time for this every day. Something to keep in mind is that it doesn’t have to be at the same time every day. Instead, try to make it part of your family’s schedule by adding it in after an event. For example, before or after dinner, when they get from school, or after you get home from work to name a few examples.

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Whatever you want to call it:  Mommy and me time, Daddy time - kids will start looking forward to it. "Children need the attention of their parents," said Kevin Kidd, one of our talented therapists at Open Arms Wellness, "By structuring positive attention for your child into your daily routine, it will meet that need and allow them to avoid many of the negative attention-seeking behaviors that kids exhibit when they're not receiving enough positive attention."

You might not think that this will solve your problem of bickering. Try it daily for two straight weeks and see the difference for yourself. You may be surprised both in the difference of your children’s mood and yours!

Need some suggestions?

  • Try a YouTube tutorial on how to draw. 
  • Play dolls.
  • Play horsey. 
  • Find out how one plays Fortnite. 
  • Sing. 
  • Dance.
  • Play hide and seek.
  • Find a Pinterest art project
  • Braid hair
  • Listen
  • Take walks together

And remember, sibling fighting to a large extent, is normal.  All siblings do it. It is a natural part of growing up. In fact, it can even help us learn how to navigate inherently difficult situations in a safe low stakes environment. 

Begin Therapy in St. Louis, MO

We know that having an outside perspective on your situation can be helpful, so we invite you to start seeing one of our therapists. We’re happy to provide therapy for you, your child, or your entire family. Our therapists are happy to work with you in our St. Louis based counseling practice or through online therapy in Missouri. When you’re ready to begin therapy in St. Louis, MO, follow these steps:

  1. Schedule an appointment with us.
  2. Get to know our team of excellent child therapists.
  3. Achieve peace between your children.