Tell them why they’re special: Often bickering among siblings occurs because a child is trying to build up himself or herself by putting a brother or sister down. In 52 Simple Ways to Talk With Your Kids About Faith (Loyola Press), author Jim Campbell notes that one way to head off rivalry is for parents to consciously and specifically tell each child why he or she is valued in the family. Parents who compliment their children’s personality traits, talents, and gifts help to develop children who are self-confident enough not to need to push others down (as much).
Praying for siblings: Encourage children to voice a prayer out loud before dinner. While usually they’ll pray for someone they know who is seriously sick or hurt, occasionally they’ll remember a problem that a sibling is having. Before bed take some time alone with one child to pray. After the child has the opportunity to pray for things he or she is struggling with, ask her if there’s anything that her brother might need her to pray for. To pray for another—especially if that person isn’t present—is to begin to think about another with compassion.
By Annemarie Scobey, from the archives of At Home with Our Faith newsletter