Siblings teasing can be a huge source of annoyance and conflict for the whole family. If you find yourself wishing the teasing would just go away here are some tried and true ideas for reducing teasing between siblings:
1. Be wary of choosing sides: Even if you know which sibling started the teasing, pointing it out, taking sides and making accusations doesn’t make the teasing go away, in fact it can make it worse.
2. Skip the criticism: It’s hard to hear two people we love being mean to each other and not getting along but critical words like “You are being so horrible to your sister, stop it!” tend to just fuel up the fire.
3. Stop insisting on love: When siblings are in “teasing mode” the last thing they want to hear is that they have to love their sibling. Try to avoid words like “Stop that teasing, you LOVE your brother, you are hurting his feelings!”
4. Avoid the bigger/smaller trap: Children of all ages might tease so don’t blame or excuse based on age: For example saying “You should know better. You are so much older than your little brother.” and ” Don’t be bothered, he’s just so little, he is calling you a “poo-poo head” because it makes him giggle.” is not helpful.
5. Don’t walk away: Advice on sibling teasing and fighting often suggests parents simply walk away and let sibling figure things out. The issue with this is that if you have witnessed the teasing and then walk and don’t address it at all, it can lead the teased child feeling quite unsupported and the teaser doesn’t receive any positive guidance in how to make a better choice.
So what are some positive ways to tackle teasing?
1. Use calm words and keep your tone neutral: “I hear teasing, I’d like for this to stop.”
2. Address everyone equally: “Let’s ALL pause for a moment.” “Do you need help talking things out?” “Can we all choose respectful ways to talk to one another?”
3. Help everyone move along: “Shall we take a break from one another? Great, please find separate places to play for now.” Or “Let’s all cool off and give each other space.” “They way you are playing right now doesn’t seem to be working, can we move along or do you want some help to figure it out?”
4. Talk it out: If teasing has become a persistent issue, it’s time to tackle it for good. Put teasing on the family meeting agenda, or meet with each child individually to listen and discuss teasing. When meeting one on one, it helps to focus on understanding and problem and not on blaming and criticizing.
Here is an example:
My oldest and youngest were going through a teasing phase. The more my oldest son teased my youngest daughter, the more frazzled and annoyed I felt and the more she teased back. Despite intervening calmly, I noticed this was going on too often. It was time to address it not just in the moment but for the long term. I did some one on one connecting with each child. This is how the meeting with my 7 year old son went:
After a relaxed and fun one on one ice cream outing, sensing we were connected and in a good mood to talk about the teasing I said something like:
“You know, I hear you making fun of bella sometimes. I need your help here, tell me what your ideas are for this to stop because I don’t like it and I’m guessing neither do you or Bella.”
He replied: “It really bothers you both right mom?”
Me: “well yeah, do you like it when we both get bothered?”
Him: “not really. I just want to make you guys laugh”
Me (reflecting) “Uhm..you like to make us laugh.”
Me (problem solving) “what other ways do you think you could get us to laugh? You know, without the teasing?”
Him: “I could tell you some jokes? Like the one about the fish that bumps his head, or the firefly race one, that one always make you laugh right?”
Me: “uhm…yes it does…a lot!”
Him: “I know the teasing is mean. I’m sorry. I will hug Bella when we get home.”
Setting a firm and kind limit in the moment is a great way to help siblings move along. Addressing it for the long term however is the key to making it go away, alright at least reduce it a great deal.
Peace & Be Well,