You may have found that the most difficult co-op discipline issues involve siblings. This should come as no surprise. Siblings spend a great deal of time together. They know each other very well. And while such familiarity leads to lifelong relationships, it can also lead to petty disputes during babysitting co-op shifts. We've put together some tips to help you deal with sibling rivalry during your co-op days. Hopefully, these discipline techniques will help your shifts to be more calm and happy.
- Foster a team spirit. Your tone can make a big difference in the way kids feel about a situation. If you talk to the kids in your babysitting shift as if you were all a team, they'll feel more unified. This is especially true for siblings. If you have siblings in your shift that aren't getting along, use teamwork-type language: "Let's all work together to clean up before we go outside," instead of, "Look, Aiden has already cleaned up his are. Can you make your area as clean, Sarah?"
- Ignore minor disputes. Sometimes kids just need to work out their differences themselves, especially if the differences aren't disrupting the rest of the group and don't really matter. If you find yourself stepping in to settle every minor dispute, hold yourself back and see if the kids can work things out by themselves before you enter the fray.
- Put the siblings in separate groups. If your babysitting shift is large enough, separate the kids into two groups at playtime, and put one sibling in each group. One group can work on a puzzle while the other group runs around the backyard. Sometimes kids just need breaks from each other, and a little time apart can work wonders.
- Praise good behavior. If a group of siblings has had a hard time getting along in the past, praise every good effort they make. "I love the way you're helping your sister, Katie." Such positive reinforcement can extend the good behavior through the rest of your shift, and hopefully beyond!
- Treat siblings equally. Nothing fuels sibling rivalry like unequal treatment. If you listen patiently while Owen tells you all about his field trip to the fire station, give his big brother the same kind of attention. His big brother will behave much better for you if you've given him his share of attention, too.
Siblings will always have their difficult days together, but you can minimize the disruptions to your babysitting shifts. When your own children have problems, talk with them about what they can do to be a team. And never be afraid to discuss sibling rivalry issues with the other parents in your babysitting co-op. We're here to support each other, and your fellow co-op members may have great insights into how these problems can be minimized.