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Engaging Siblings To Build Interpersonal Skills

Are you having multiple children of the age of 4-5 years old? How’s the development of their interpersonal skills?

You may notice that children at around 2 years old begin to develop a sense of ownership – “This is mine!” “I like this thing!” “I want it!” As they grow and get siblings or meet with friends in preschool, it becomes difficult for them to hog something for themselves, hence they need to learn how to share.

They might want something their friends are playing with, or their friends could be eyeing at the toys they’re playing with. Sooner or later, children at this age will learn to be a good sharer to their friends. They will realise that they must be first willing to share with others in order for others to share with them.

I have three children in my family. When the youngest was less than two years old, my eldest and second child tended to fight between the two of them. As parents, we would definitely not watch them fight over toys; it is essential to guide them.

We often guide them in the following ways:

The first one being the above-mentioned issue of reciprocity. Let them imagine a scenario: the elder brother brought back a gift from school today and the younger sister really wanted to play with it. But alas, the elder brother refused to share. The brother should be in the shoes of his sister and consider: what if he wants to play with his sister’s toy next time but she is unwilling to share? Would he feel good? When a child can think from another person’s shoes, then he will take the initiative to share.

The second point is to let them expand their minds and understand that happiness is the most important thing for everyone. Whenever they fight fiercely, we try to draw their attention to their own emotions and what has just happened. Let them recall that the item they’re fighting over was supposed to make them happy. But due to the sibling fight, everyone gets unhappy. Is it worth it? Is this item more important than their happiness? This conversation acts as a process to guide them to open their mind. Over time, they will stop fighting, share with each other harmoniously, and spend more and more time playing together.

In addition to fighting over things, the development of interpersonal skills are also reflected from the children’s tendency to develop a sense of inner superiority by comparing themselves with others. For example, where one child points out the weakness of another and highlights his own strengths, or where a child boasts about winning in a competition. I let my children think for themselves whether they feel happy seeing their siblings, or any closed ones failing or losing. If they don’t figure this out, they will gradually turn into a person who is unpopular among their peers. They will also become someone who is unwilling to support others to succeed. This kind of person tends to spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar.

Whether it is empathy, reciprocity, taking a step back in a fight, prioritising happiness, being considerate of others or sacrificing oneself for others, parents can start helping their children at the age of 4-5 years old to develop their way of thinking and to guide their behavioural change. I hope that parents and adults can actively guide and support children's interpersonal skills for their importance in a family with multiple children.

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