Benefits of a large family

One of the things that I love about going on holiday with my children is that they all enjoy playing with each other. Having four children means that there is always someone to play with or swim with and no one feels left out. My children think of themselves as a team and will devise games that they can play together.

Although two of my children have now gone to University they are still making the effort to come home for birthdays, school plays and special occasions. They have a strong sense of ‘family’ and stay in contact regularly.

It has made me think of all the little things that we have done as parents to help them feel that sense of belonging rather than a sense of rivalry.

14 top tips to reduce sibling rivalry

  1. Whenever a new baby was born presents from the baby appeared under the crib. These were dressing up outfits, colouring pencils and toys for quiet play. We also asked any visitors to talk to the oldest child first when they arrived. To make a fuss of them as the new ‘Big brother or sister’. Visitors often bought small presents for the older siblings. Presents for the new baby were unwrapped later. We always allowed the new baby to be held and cuddled by the older children. Although we tried to stop them waking the baby. We figured babies were going to need to get used to the slightly awkward holds and attempts of the older children to interact with the baby
  2.  As parents, we tried to spend some quality time with the older children. When we felt that a child was being left out one of us took them to the ‘bun shop’ for a drink and a cake, and some one to-one time. Especially the middle children who had less attention.
  3.  When the children argued, we refused to take sides. Both were disciplined if they wouldn’t stop.
  4. When our children both argued over a toy the toy got ‘Time out’ for causing the fuss. It was only returned when they had worked out how they could play with it nicely. (Usually, I had to set a timer when one child played with it and when the timer went off it was the second child’s turn).
  5. We rarely played competitive games of ‘Who can get ready first?’, or ‘Who can get up the stairs fastest?’ It was more ‘How quickly can everyone get ready? Or ‘Let’s see if we can all do this before the timer goes off!’ Which invariably led to the older children assisting the younger ones.
  6. When we played board games as a family we encouraged the older children to help the youngest, had different handicaps for older players and sometimes let the younger children win.
  7. Our children were given time to play together, and set up games and toys where they could interact with each other such as garden games, putting a slide into the paddling pool, dressing up, dancing and bike rides.
  8. We played lots of children’s music and stories in the car to reduce their need to argue with each other for entertainment
  9. The children had separate bedrooms so that they could have their own private space away from their siblings when they needed it
  10. We encourage the children to buy small presents and make a card whenever one of them has a birthday. There is also a bar of chocolate for each child when the birthday child is opening their presents.
  11. We don’t stop the children from having play fights. They need to learn to have fun physical exchanges and when enough is enough.
  12. When the children were older they each had a downstairs room to tidy up. When the shout went up ‘OK we need everyone to get the house tidy’ they would clear everything in ‘their room’ first and then go on to help the others until we were all sorted.
  13. We had little routines for Christmas, birthdays and mealtimes which helped all the children feel part of a bigger family and connected emotionally
  14. And lastly, we try to give each child enough individual time so that they don’t feel they have to compete for our attention. They can always come to us for a chat, or to show us something interesting, and we make time with them a priority.

Making family life a pleasure

I think it is possibly the little things that have made a big difference to how they feel about each other. Of course, they argue sometimes, but on the whole, I would say they get on very well together, and it makes family time a pleasure.

The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

Need help now? Ready to explore whether investing in some tailor-made parenting sessions would be right for you and your family? Book your FREE 20-minute call with Elizabeth here