How Do You Encourage Your Kids To Get Along?

I’m a big believer that nothing is inevitable in parenting. Sure, there are common themes across all families, and certain issues that – while challenging – are a normal part of the landscape. But I am not one to shrug my shoulders and offer a “kids will be kids” response to clichéd behavior when it happens. I don’t have to take anything in parenting as a given, and do have the power to change the course of certain situations.

Right now in our family we’re dealing with what could be seen as a teenage cliché – especially as it pertains to teenage sisters. Our daughters Maddy, 17 and Abby, 16 struggle to get along. I have their permission to tell this story, and I’m sharing it not to gratuitously display their flaws or foibles, but to hopefully reach into a universal challenge shared by many parents.

It’s hard to watch when your children don’t get along. It makes me heart-sick. Especially when I know how much my girls love each other and enjoy each other’s company. They are more alike than they realize, but very (VERY) different, too.

Honestly, I think it’s just hard to be part of a family sometimes. The constant proximity, the sharing, the negotiating, the concessions, the playing nice. It gets on ME as the mother – I can only imagine how it feels as a teenager, a time in life when independence is at a premium and personal expression and one’s own world view are paramount. It’s a lot to ask siblings to be nice all the time. But I still ask it.

I try to smooth over as many arguments as I can between my girls, just to either offer them a different view of things, or distract them from whatever they’re so upset about. I honestly believe there is nothing fundamentally personal my girls don’t like about each other; the struggles they have are related to this very temporary time in life. I do not want to allow permanent damage to their relationship, when I know things will be so different – and so liberating for both of them – in just a couple of years.

Recently, I thought I’d give my girls the opportunity to answer some questions about each other in a way that was low-stress and kind of fun, in a format that was non-confrontational, but would still offer them the chance to express themselves.

I’ve been using the new OneDay app to make fun videos with my 6yo, and thought it might be an interesting exercise to try with my daughters. The app provides questions on a variety of topics, creating conversation and allowing you to make a video of the responses. We sat down and just let the camera roll, and the experience with my teens was pretty sweet.

I was surprised at how honest my girls were with me, and each other. If nothing else, we shared a moment that was very open and hopefully enlightening for each of them.

I will continue to be actively involved in encouraging my girls to get along, despite how hard it can be at times, because I know what it will mean to both of them in the end.

Do your kids struggle to get along with their siblings? How do you encourage sibling harmony in your home?