Oh, the joys of raising multiple children.
Really, there are many, many joys to raising multiple children, but sibling rivalry is not one of those joys.
I love watching my boys play together. Sometimes it is a Nerf war, sometimes all 4 of them are piled in one reclining chair watching one DS screen (they could all play their own, but I love seeing them piled together, cheering on the one player - usually SugarBear). I have to remember to count my blessings when I get to watch (or listen) them defend one another to the world. It is often the older siblings defending the younger siblings, but not always. I pray that they all remain close in adulthood.
However, we do have a very hefty dose of competitiveness in our household. I've tried to discourage the boys from competing with one another, but it seems inevitable. I listen to the bickering and only step in when I think they are about to make bad choices that might result in more than hurt feelings with a little L & L, "I hear that things are not going well. Bummer. I'll be happy to help you find happy again, but I think you can do it on your own." Often that is enough and they work it out. My solution usually involves working it out with actual "work" (a.k.a. chores, because I charge for my time spent helping to find a solution - they rarely want that kind of help). Yet there are those times when they just can't quite get over the hump. They "work it out", just to be back at it within the hour. That is a sign to Mom that something bigger is in play.
I've found it isn't always necessary to find out what the "bigger" thing might be. They might not even know. Honestly, when I get frustrated with my Darling I can blow it up into something huge without him even being aware of it in very little time. I really don't think I am the only person in our family capable of such grandeur. What I do know is that they need to fix it and remember what and why they love one another fast. How do I do that? Together Time.
Together Time is just what it sounds like. Time spent together. Just the squabbling siblings. Time that is supervised by me with them doing something they both enjoy together (no electronics), but seperately. We usually spend ours at the breakfast table with me in the kitchen and the boys either read, draw or get out the play-doh, sometimes we even cook together. Before long they start to talk to one another.
The rules are simple. We have to use nice words and show love for the timer to start. If they get snarky then the timer goes off. I'm only looking for 15 minutes of Together Time. Two pauses is all it has ever taken for them to get control of those words. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post I'm blessed that my kids really do love one another. It is not unusual that by the end of the 15 minutes they decide to stay at the table even longer - they have rediscovered what they love about one another and want to spend Time Together.