How To Get Kids to Stop Being Mean to Their Siblings

 

What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective


You want your children to be there for each other and to support each other. But in reality, they are usually comparing, competing…and sometimes they’re downright mean.

…Like when one of your kids keeps making loud noises even when another asks them to stop.

…Or when one sibling hits or pushes another because they got in their way. 

You’ve tried to emphasize how important it is to be nice to each other, but that doesn’t seem to help at all. The nastiness just keeps coming.

 

What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective

 

Like everyone else, kids need to know they matter. And when they get one-on-one time with their parents, they usually feel pretty good.

But then a sibling comes along and gets in the way of everything.

There is always someone else there who wants what they want — including parents’ attention and time!

And they are constantly told to “be nice” and “stop fighting” and to “respect your brother” or “respect your sister.”

So they become resentful, and often they take out those big feelings on their siblings. When they’re being mean to siblings, it’s because of their own Yuck… but they don’t even know that, let alone how to deal with it.  

 

 

How It Usually Goes When

Kids Aren’t Nice to Their Siblings

 

Scenario: Lincoln and his sister Claire are playing in the family room. When Lincoln sees what Claire is building with legos, he calls her building “stupid” and tells her he’s going to knock it down. Their mom hears Lincoln and comes in the room.

 

Mom: Lincoln! You stop that! We don’t talk to each other like that in this family.

Lincoln: But her tower is stupid!

Mom: That is not a nice thing to say to your sister!

Lincoln: But it’s true…

Mom: You apologize! Right now.

Lincoln: For what? I didn’t do anything wrong. I just told her what I thought.

Mom: Lincoln, I’m warning you…

Lincoln: Why are you always taking HER side?

Mom: I’m NOT! But you can’t talk to your sister like that!

Lincoln: You hate me and love her. I hate this family…

Lincoln runs off without apologizing to his sister.

 

How It Could Go Instead When

Kids Aren’t Nice To Their Siblings

 

Scenario: Lincoln and his sister Claire are playing in the family room. When Lincoln sees what Claire is building with legos, he calls her building “stupid” and tells her he’s going to knock it down. Their mom hears Lincoln and comes in the room.

 

Mom: Ouch, Lincoln. That wasn’t a nice thing to say.

Lincoln: But her tower IS stupid.

 

CALM

Lincoln’s mom wants Lincoln to stop being mean. 

But she knows that the best way to turn around Lincoln’s behavior is to help him feel safe. So she stays calm so she can motivate Lincoln to act better. 

 

Mom: I hear you have a VERY strong opinion.

Lincoln: Yeah. It’s dumb and I want to knock it down.

Mom: You want her tower to go away?

Lincoln: Yeah, and I want to be the one to do it.

Mom: Hmmm, you usually want to hurt things when YOU’RE upset. Did anything happen that upset you?

 

CONNECT

Instead of focusing on Lincoln’s negative behavior, she tries to see the situation from Lincoln’s perspective.

She knows that if she wants Lincoln to act better, she needs to figure out what’s under his behavior. 

 

 

Lincoln: NO!

Mom: OK, well I can’t let you talk to your sister like that. If you do it again, I’ll ask you to play somewhere else. But Lincoln, I am right here if you want to talk about anything.

 

CORRECT

While Lincoln’s mom respects how Lincoln is feeling, she still sets a boundary about how he treats his sister.

She re-emphasizes this boundary so that he can release all of his big feelings… and she reminds him that she is still on his side. 

She focuses on being firm while teaching Lincoln tools to be successful

 

Lincoln: I don’t WANT to play in my room!

Mom doesn’t say anything.

Lincoln: You’re mean!

Mom doesn’t say anything.

Lincoln says a few more mean things to his mom. Then he runs out of the room. When he comes back, he walks slowly over to his mom and cuddles up to her.

Mom: Thanks, Bud. I think some big feelings had to come out. Do you feel better?

Lincoln nods.

Mom: Is there anything you want to say to your sister?

Lincoln: Sorry, Claire.

 

 

What Needs to Happen for This to Work

 

Though Lincoln’s mom used the Calm, Connect, Correct strategy, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to give your child tools to be successful (so they aren’t mean to their siblings), remember: 

 

Depositing into CALM

You will not be able to stay calm if

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

b.) you have the expectation that your children will have the same priorities that you do

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm. 

 

Depositing into CONNECT

You will be able to connect if

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that when a child is in Yuck, they are likely to take that Yuck out on their sibling)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively. 

 

Depositing into CORRECT

You will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “You need to be respectful to your sister.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.