We as parents can help ward off sibling conflict. Focusing on the positive in each of our kids, not comparing them, and helping them develop skills at which they can be "the best" are just three ways.
But there will still be times when our kids will decide that the smell of a good fight is just too intoxicating to pass up. It is in that arena that we must act as referees. We may have to simply separate them and send them to separate corners. But how can we keep them out of the ring?
Since it's more satisfying to throw a punch at an enemy than a friend, try to strengthen the friendships between your kids. Sometimes at dinner, we'll go around the table and say one positive thing about each family member-something we've noticed about him or her that is particularly attractive, maybe a strength or a gift. The idea is to take the time to intentionally build one another up in love.
You can also teach your kids to demonstrate their love for their siblings by praying for them. If I'm putting Clancy to bed, and Tucker's been a real bother of a brother all day, I'll say, "Why don't you pray for Tucker tonight? He had a really hard day." Prayer keeps things in perspective and fosters love for the other person.
At the same time, look for opportunities in which your children can serve each other. For example, if I'm busy and I notice one of my kids is struggling to do something or is calling for me, I may suggest, "Haven, can you go help your little sister?" Afterward I'll affirm her, letting her know what a sweet big sister she is.
You can also encourage loving relationships between your kids by helping them to focus on the long-term. Tell your children about one of the best friends you had as a child, and describe all the fun things you did together. Then tell them how long it's been since you've seen or talked to that friend. Point out to them that friends are great, but family is forever.
Ask your kids this: Would you rather invest all your energy in watering and tending a flower that, while beautiful, lasts only a season? Or would you want to spend more of your time cultivating a tree that will grow throughout your entire life, one that can bring you joy during your childhood and shade in your old age?
In this "Toolbox" section, I've come up with several strategies to foster healthy, happy sibling relationships. By working with our kids, we can help keep sibling conflict from escalating into nuclear war-and keep peace on the family horizon.