This summer, Amy Wilson bought a bunch of sporting equipment and left it casually on the lawn, hoping her children would create great summer memories together, long days of whiffle ball and impromptu games. She pictured sibling togetherness, where they would create new bonds.
But instead, said the mother of three children and co-creator of the podcast “What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood,” by the second day, the equipment had become weaponry. “I looked through the window and saw my 13-year-old running for his life while the 14-year-old was chasing after him with the whiffle ball bat,” she said.
Although there are days when it feels as if we can do little more than send our children to separate rooms, experts say there are steps parents can take to diminish sibling squabbling and foster strong, lifelong bonds.
It doesn’t always involve whiffle ball bats strewn on the front lawn.
Sibling rivalry is coded into our DNA, but it isn’t all bad
At its base, sibling rivalry is a battle for parent resources, be they attention, money or affection. Even siblings who love and care for each other can regard the other as a threat to getting what they want or need.
Remind yourself that, as painful as those battles are, they teach important life skills, such as seeing from another person’s perspective, communicating effectively and resolving conflicts, says Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University. These are all things that will better equip them to make friendships and navigate romantic relationships as they get older. The wonderful thing about siblings, she says, is that no matter the fight, they’ll still be sitting next to each other at the breakfast table the next morning.
Worry less about the bickering
Jeffrey Kluger, author of “The…