As your children grow, you’ll have to consciously encourage them to respect each other. When they show consideration, give them positive feedback. “That was nice of you to pick up his toy.” “Thanks for letting him play with you and your friend.” If you treat each of your children with love, and show that you accept them and their similarities and differences, they’ll respond positively.
Don’t make one child seem more important or more deserving of consideration than the other. If you say, “Let him do it, he’s younger,” or “She’s older, so she can go,” or “She’s better at it, so let her go first,” you’ll give your children reasons to feel resentful and jealous, and you’ll encourage a cycle of competitiveness. And if you say, “The baby needs to be carried, but you’re big enough to walk,” or “Don’t play with the baby’s toys. You’re too old for that,” your older child will feel anger that will be directed at her younger sibling, not at you.
At times you may sympathize with your older child, but be careful not to encourage her negative feelings. Listen to her complaints about her younger sibling, but don’t say, “Yes, he really is a nuisance, isn’t he?” She’ll consider your comments a license to feel and say what she wants about her sibling, and your younger child may end up feeling rejected.
Be matter-of-fact about the different things you do with your children. “She’s going to bed later because she slept later this morning,” or “I’m putting this together for him because he doesn’t understand how to do it.”
If your children are close in age and argue over toys, try to downplay the issue of possessions. Rather than say, “That’s his toy,” encourage them to share and trade their playthings, and provide some toys that will interest both. If your younger child wants to play with something that belongs to his sibling, distract the older one for a moment so the younger has a chance with the toy. Then thank your older child for sharing, even though she did not do so intentionally.
Allow them to work out some of their minor problems themselves, and try not to take sides. Too often parents end up blaming quarrels on the older child, “who should know better.” When this happens, the older child gets angry at her parents for scolding her, but she takes out her anger on her sibling because he’s a safer target.
Generally, set firm limits and send a consistent message about getting along in your family: “You need to find a way to use the toy together.” “Let her play with you.” “I won’t let you exclude your brother.” “Talk nicely to each other.” Children can learn to follow your rules about getting along way before they understand the value of family harmony.
In spite of all you do to encourage a good relationship, your children will still argue with each other, probably every day. Try to understand and accept that some arguments are inevitable. And take comfort and pleasure in the times you see your children showing genuine love and consideration for each other.