5 Ways to Turn Sibling Rivalry Into Sibling Love

5 Ways to Turn Sibling Rivalry Into Sibling Love

Siblings fight but parents can help turn rivalry into loving tolerance … most of the time.


By: Judy Koutsky

Do your kids bicker, fight, and squabble over just about everything? It could be that they have very different personalities, are close in age and competitive with each other, or simply want their parents’ attention (if you could only clone yourself). Don’t worry, there are ways to turn sibling rivalry into love (or at least like).

1. Make it a teachable moment. “ Use sibling fights as a teaching opportunity, so your children learn problem-solving and negotiation skills,” says Carrie Krawiec, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Structure a family meeting, identify the problem and the goal, brainstorm solutions, and create a contract. State who will do what and revisit every week to two weeks.”

2. Don’t label your children. “ The messages parents give their children will affect the relationship the children have with each other,” says Thomas Gagliano, MSW, author of The Problem Was Me. “If a parent says things like, ‘This is my smart child,’ or pretty child, the rivalry between the kids will intensify. For instance, if one child gets good grades in math, parents should compliment the effort, not the grade, and then validate the other child's strengths as well.”

3. Give each child one-on-one time with a parent. “Every child requires equal amounts of quality time and attention from parents, so they don’t feel left out,” says Emma Jenner, child development and child behavioral specialist and author of Keep Calm and Parent On. By giving a child that special one-on-one time, he won’t feel the need to fight with his sibling to get attention from the adults.

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4. Create an "attitude of gratitude" in your kids. “As often as you can, catch your children in the act of cooperative, loving, and respectful behavior toward each other and encourage it,” says Krawiec. If your oldest gives her sibling the last slice of pizza, be sure to acknowledge it with praise and encouragement. “Encouragement might be high-fives, thumbs-up, tokens, stickers, or special rewards. You will be modeling this behavior and they will start to be more encouraging of one another.”

5. Try not to get in the middle. When your kids are fighting over something, your first instinct may be to go in and mediate. Don’t. “Let children figure it out on their own, providing of course no one is getting hurt,” says Jenner. “Children need to learn how to solve their own conflicts.” Plus, you don’t want it to appear like you’re favoring one child over the other (even if the older one did start it).

What tips do you have for helping siblings get along?



Judy Koutsky is the former Editorial Director of KIWI magazine, a green parenting publication. She was also Executive Editor of Parenting.com, AOL Parent and BabyTalk.com. Follow her on Twitter @JudyKoutsky.

Image ©iStock.com/digitalskillet

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