The Five Secrets to Soothe Sibling Rivalry

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Ever dream you could wave a magic wand and have your kids just get along? Play happily together? Never fight, argue, hit, or call each other names? In other words, make sibling rivalry disappear?  As much as we’d like this dream to come true, human nature being what it is, disagreements and quarrels between siblings are a fact of life. But don’t despair! The good news is that there are some techniques you can use to decrease these conflicts.

Below are five secrets to soothe sibling rivalry in your home. Designed to nurture cooperation and teamwork, you may be pleasantly pleased with the results. Try them out and see what happens. What have you got to lose…except some noisy kids arguing over whose turn it is to sit next to the window!

1. Model friendly and positive negotiating. This gives them the tools and sets the example for how they do their own negotiating with their sibling. For example, when you and your spouse have a disagreement, what do the kids see? Do they see yelling, holding grudges, and pouting, or do they see compromising and bargaining? Teach your children to negotiate with each other by setting a loving and effective example with your spouse or any other person with whom you have a disagreement.

2. Remove the offending object. When children argue over a toy you simply say, “This is so sad. Every time you kids play with that you get in a fight. It is going to go away so it won’t be a problem anymore.” (You decide later if or how they can earn it back.) They will learn quickly that those arguments over stuff means the stuff they love goes away.

3. Eliminate the extra “perks” when kids battle with each other. Try saying, “This is such a bummer. I know I promised to take you guys to the park today. But with all the arguing, it has made me so tired. I don’t have the energy to go today.” The lesson children learn is when they misbehave, they lose out on something fun. They may start thinking, “I should try harder to get along. When I don’t, life isn’t so enjoyable.”

4. Let them resolve the issue. First, make sure your children are safe and won’t harm each other. If that is the case you can say, “You kids are really making me tired with all of your arguing. You need to work this out or go your separate ways.” This works best of course, if you have modeled effective negotiating (Secret # 1) and your children have developed some skills in this area. When you step out of the way, you are teaching children that you believe they are capable, and trust them to work things out. If you always step in, then they never have a chance to build up their “negotiating muscle.”

5. Give them extra chores–this is a “gift” to help them bond. When your children start to clash with each other say, “Oh my, sounds like you guys need to spend some bonding time together. I really need the living room dusted. Take these rags and let me know when you are done.” The lesson is that when they argue, they get stuck with extra everyday jobs in addition to their regular ones. This is another lesson in learning when they don’t get along; in other words, their life isn’t as much fun.

Hopefully these “secrets” will be help soothe the sibling rivalry in your home.


Janada Clark, MA teaches Love and Logic at Stanford and at public and private schools. Her parent education classes are a well respected resource for parents. Read her blog for parent testimonies.

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