Homeschooling Through Sibling Rivalry
This post is from contributor, Sharla Kostelyk.
In my early years of homeschooling, there was a mom who told me that homeschooling was a wonderful way to teach siblings to get along and cut down on the fighting at home. She obviously had not met my children!
While homeschooling does not cause sibling rivalry, all the extra time spent together, coupled with possible attempts to outdo each other on school tasks, can lead to an increased intensity in sibling tension. I often have to interrupt our lessons to deal with bickering or teasing between the kids.
There are also just certain family dynamics and different personality pairings that are more prone to disagreements or conflict. We have a few pairings like that in our home. In a large family, there are bound to be clashes.
I know that the kids will likely outgrow this and someday be the best of friends. My husband often reassures me that he and his brothers fought when he was growing up and reminds me that they are best friends now. But knowing that doesn’t help me in the moment!
Some days, I feel like I spend half my time refereeing. I especially don’t like how fighting among the kids seems to cause widespread tension throughout the whole house.
The bickering and bugging often comes into our homeschool classroom and interrupts me when I’m trying to teach.
“He’s not listening.”
“She brought food in here.”
“He looked at me funny.”
“She didn’t close her eyes while we were praying.” (a particularly funny one since the only way they would know is if their eyes were also open!)
“He took my green marker.”
“Give me back my pencil.”
“It’s my turn to sit on the bean bag chair.”
I am by no means an expert in this, as I am still dealing with this daily, but I have found a few strategies that seem to help cut down on the sibling rivalry and let us focus a bit more on homeschooling.
- Sensory Breaks – Sensory breaks are a great way to reset the tone in the classroom and for your kids to reset their own moods. Sensory work helps kids to regulate their emotions and to calm down. Even kids who don’t have any sensory issues can benefit greatly from sensory breaks. This works wonders for our kids!
- Time Apart – If you find that there is a particular set of kids who are getting on each other’s nerves, sometimes they can benefit from some time apart. I will find opportunities for one of my boys to go and play at a friend’s house or register just one of the kids in a homeschool class, such as art. This time apart helps them to better appreciate their time together, and I often find that once reunited, the kids play very well and have a lot to talk about.
- A Change in Scenery – Even as adults, we can start to feel cooped up. I find that the kids’ fighting gets worse during really cold spells in the winter when they are stuck in the house together. Getting outside for a walk or even taking a trip to the grocery store can be all it takes to lighten the mood.
- General Teachings on Character – I have discovered that with my kids, lecturing or interfering at the time they are actually fighting has very little effect, but laying the foundations of character when they are open and thinking clearly does. If, during our school time or devotions or even during their tuck-ins, I teach them the principles of sharing, compassion, forgiveness, patience, and love, I will see a decrease in fighting over the following days.
- Encouragement – Once the character concepts are in place, acknowledge when you see your kids putting them into action. Encourage the positives that you see happening in your home. This will not only praise the child making the good choices but will remind the others as well.
If nothing helps, it may at least make you feel better to remind yourself that your kids are getting lessons in interpersonal relationships that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives!
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