4 Ways to Encourage Kids to Be Nice to Their Younger Siblings
1. Cut down on competitiveness.
Your child is more likely to be nice to their little sibling if the green-eyed monster isn't lurking—aka jealousy. Of course, some sibling rivalry and spats are to be expected, but if they seem to be spiraling out of control, you can help reduce the tension. For example, don't compare your kids to one another, and try not to automatically blame your older child for something that goes wrong simply because they're older. Work in some one-on-one time with each of your kids so they feel special, but also find ways that they can work and play together to strengthen their own bond. You might have a family game night with the kids versus the grown-ups rather than the sibs competing against each other.
2. Prepare them for a new sibling.
When a new child is brought into the family, existing kids can feel left out. Kids love to be assistants, so parents should look for small, age-appropriate ways for their older child to be a "helper" with the new baby. This could allow them to feel more involved. Make sure you find a few minutes each day to engage in a fun activity with the older child.
3. Look out for kindness.
Children tend to do more of the things that get them the most praise or attention. So if your child does something especially nice for a sibling, make a big deal about it. You might say, "Wow, Josie, that was so kind of you to help your little sister find her crayon." Also, point out kindness in books, movies, and the real world. This lets your child know those things matter to you and gives them examples to follow. Be careful, though, not to compare it to situations in which your kid wasn't polite, which will only put them on the defensive. Don't forget to model kindness yourself. When your child sees you being friendly and helpful to others, they'll follow your lead.
4. Let them teach.
Kids this age love to show off all the new things they're learning. This can work to your advantage when it comes to fostering positivity between an older and younger sib. For instance, your older child can help the younger one practice counting, or they can show them how to use an inside voice. Just be sure your older kiddo doesn't get too bossy with the lessons. Intervene if they go overboard.
This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's March 2021 issue as "How to Encourage Kindness With Younger Siblings." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here.