10 Mom-Tested Tips for Taming Sibling Rivalry

10 Mom-Tested Tips for Taming Sibling Rivalry

Real moms share their best tricks for teaching kids to get along.

By Leah Maxwell

Siblings can be each other’s best friends or worst enemies, often at the same time, and especially while they’re living under the same roof. But while sibling rivalry is a perfectly normal experience for families, it’s also perfectly annoying when you’re the parent and all you want is 10 minutes of drama-free peace and quiet. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to all your rivalry troubles, the following tips have worked for others, and they just might work for you too. Whether their kids are arguing over a toy or competing for attention, here, 10 moms share what works to tame sibling rivalry in their families.

1. “When possible, I make sure there are two of something. If there is only one thing, we try to alternate. (We have a soft, fuzzy living room blanket that they alternate evenings with during storytime.) And sometimes I just have to be blunt and tell them to suck it up (using age-appropriate language).” -- Liz P., mother of a 9-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter

2. “We try to schedule one-on-one time with kids regularly. It makes them feel special to have ‘dates’ with Mom or Dad.” -- Julie O., mother of a 10-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter

3. “We had a rough winter of fighting, so over dinner we each give everyone at the table two compliments about behavior or something they said or did (not about clothes or appearance). I felt they needed to hear nice things from each other, not just bickering and fighting. It’s been a nice addition. I don’t know if it stops their rivalry, but it pauses it for dinner.” -- Eleanor S., mother of a 4-year-old daughter and two sons, ages 7 and 1

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4. “My friend has this great saying: ‘Fair isn’t everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need.’” -- Christine D., mother of an 8-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter

5. “[When they’re fighting over the same object], I say, ‘Figure it out or I take it away.’” -- Anne P., mother of a 6-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son

6. “If my older daughter wants to play with something alone, I make her go in her room to do it.” -- Jen C., mother of two daughters, ages 3 and 1


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7. “Sometimes when we do things like tabletop games, we pair my younger son with an adult and they play as a team while everyone else is playing singly. It helps when we do stuff he’s not good at yet but he wants to be involved.” -- Cari T., mother of two sons, ages 10 and 6

8. “The fighting is constant. The other day I told them to take turns kicking each other. Then, when they were both in tears, I asked who won. They both agreed that no one had. I told them that’s how I feel when they do that. Harsh, but it seemed to work.” -- Jennifer B., mother of a 10-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy

9. “They’re at an age now where we talk about how they’ll be sisters for life and how great it’ll be to be friends as adults. I emphasize that how they relate to each other now and the relational patterns that they choose to develop will lay the foundation for when they’re grown. I make them slow their interactions WAAAAY down and enforce/mediate respect every step of the way (and using words to express feelings/desires). This is when I’m feeling like the model parent; other times I typically say, ‘Look, we talk and treat each other respectfully in this family,’ and then I physically separate them until they can demonstrate respect.” -- Rebecca M., mother of two daughters, ages 8 and 6

10. “I wish I had a trick for making them get along, but sometimes the only thing that works is enforcing consequences for when they can’t. Kids go in time-out, toys go in time-out ... I keep hoping it will make a difference in the long run.” -- Lisa R., mother of two sons, ages 5 and 2

How do you cut down on sibling rivalry between your kids?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

Image ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

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