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From Fights to Friendship: Sibling Rivalry Help for Overwhelmed Parents



sibling rivalry help

Now, if you’ve got more than one kiddo, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You love them to the moon and back, but there are days when it seems like their main mission in life is to argue over who gets the blue cup, who’s breathing too loudly, or who looked at whom for one second too long. Yes, that’s the glamorous life of sibling rivalry, and we’re all seeking that golden nugget of sibling rivalry help.

Imagine this: You’re making the most amazing sandwich. It’s a work of art, really. Just as you’re about to take that well-deserved first bite, a shrill scream pierces the air. It’s coming from the living room, where your precious angels were playing so nicely just two minutes ago. Now, it looks like WWE SmackDown, and the prized toy is the championship belt.

Sound familiar? You're not alone. I’ve been there, refereeing matches that would make a football coach sweat. So, let’s get into some tried-and-true tips to turn our home arenas back into peaceful havens (or at least places where we can hear our own thoughts).

Just letting you know that this post could have some affiliate links in it. These links may result in a small monetary commission for me, if you decide to make a purchase, after clicking on them. Thanks for your support of Insider Mama!


Understanding Sibling Rivalry

First off, why does this even happen? Knowing the why can be a game-changer. Siblings squabble for a bunch of reasons:

  • Attention: They both want your undivided attention. Yes, they love being your world.

  • Boredom: Sometimes, they argue just because the WiFi is down, and what else is there to do?

  • Sharing: Sharing is hard, especially when it comes to the last cookie or the Xbox controller.

  • Individuality: Each child is as unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint at a crime scene, and they want to show it.


Tips for Sibling Rivalry Help

Now, onto the good stuff—how do we help our little darlings live in harmony? Or at least not make the family dog hide under the bed.

Set the Stage for Success

  • Have clear rules: No biting, no name-calling, and definitely no using mom’s lipstick to write on the walls.

  • Share your attention like the last slice of pizza—everyone gets a piece.

  • Celebrate their differences. One may be a soccer star, and the other might be the next Picasso with noodles and glue.

Be a Detective

  • Notice when the rivalry starts. Is it before meals? Maybe they’re hangry. After school? Perhaps they need a break. At bedtime? They might be stalling because who really wants to go to bed when there’s a LEGO empire to build?

Coach Don’t Referee

  • Teach them to solve their disputes. Maybe they can trade turns with the toy or decide together which movie to watch by playing rock-paper-scissors.

  • Help them understand each other’s feelings with magic words like “I understand” or “How can I make it better?”

Quality Time

  • Spend one-on-one time with each child. It’s like a secret mission where you get to know them as the little individuals they are.

  • Do group activities that foster teamwork. Think of something like building a fort where everyone has a job, and the end goal is a cool new hangout spot (until it collapses, of course).

Praise the Peace

  • When you catch them being kind to each other, celebrate it! It could be as simple as saying, “Wow, you guys are playing so nicely, I thought I was in the wrong house for a second!”

  • Create a “kindness chart” where they earn stickers for peaceful play. Stickers can be like kid currency for good behavior.

sibling rivalry help - sibling reward chart

Keep Your Cool

  • When they argue, stay calm. If you need to, take deep breaths or count to ten (or maybe twenty...or a hundred—no judgment here).

  • Remember, if the captain of the ship is chill, the crew is more likely to follow suit.

Fair Isn’t Always Equal

  • Sometimes, what’s fair isn’t always equal. One may need new shoes while the other doesn’t. Explain why decisions are made so they understand it’s not about favoritism.

Give Them Tools

  • Help them find words for their feelings. Instead of throwing a toy, they could say, “I’m really mad you took my doll!”

  • Show them how to take turns or set a timer. It’s like a referee’s whistle but less sweaty.

Create a Family Motto

  • Make a family motto about kindness and teamwork. Something like, “In this house, we help each other,” or “Team [Last Name] sticks together.”

Seek Out Stories

  • Read books or watch shows about siblings who get along. They can be like secret guides to being best buddies.

Secret Signals

  • Create a secret signal for when they’re feeling upset and need a break. Maybe it’s a hand on the heart or a special word. It’s like a spy code for “I need some space.”

Be Realistic

  • Understand that some squabbling is normal. It’s part of growing up and finding your way, like a baby bird learning to fly or a teenager figuring out that maybe 6 layers of socks isn’t a fashion statement.


Role of Parents in Sibling Rivalry

Navigating the choppy waters of sibling rivalry often feels like being a diplomat in the tiny nation of Your Family. As a parent, you might not realize it, but you're the leader, the influencer, and sometimes, the law enforcer. And how you act, react, and interact with your kids can set the tone for their interactions with each other.

Avoid Playing the Comparison Game

It's almost like a reflex, isn't it? "Why can't you eat your veggies like your brother?" or "Look at your sister’s room—it's so tidy!" While these observations may slip out innocently, they can ignite competitive flames between siblings. Each child is a unique individual, blossoming at their own pace and in their own way, much like how one flower might pop open at sunrise while another waits for the midday sun.

The key is to celebrate each child's victories without making it a benchmark for the others. Imagine if every rose was judged by how tall the sunflower grew—we'd never appreciate the rose's delightful scent!

Fairness Over Equality

Now, this is a tough cookie to crumble. As parents, we aim for equality to show our unbiased love. But, hear me out—fairness is the new equality. This means understanding that what's beneficial for one might not be necessary for the other. If your eldest gets a new bike for their birthday because they’ve outgrown the old one, it doesn't mean the younger sibling gets a new bike too if theirs still fits just fine.

Communicate the 'why' behind your decisions so each child understands that you're catering to their individual needs, not playing favorites. It's like giving out umbrellas in the rain; the one who already has a raincoat might not need one.

Setting the Example

Monkey see, monkey do, right? Siblings watch how their parents resolve conflicts and imitate that behavior. If we handle our disagreements with respect, active listening, and a sprinkle of patience, we're modeling a blueprint for our kids to follow.

Showing empathy, considering everyone's feelings, and finding a middle ground can teach your little ones that every argument doesn't have to be a battle; sometimes, it can be a dance.

Consistent Rules and Consequences

Setting up house rules is like drawing lines on a tennis court; it lets everyone know the game's limits. Consistency is key—wobbly lines make for a confusing game. If the rule is to knock before entering a sibling's room, then that should stand, whether it's a toddler or a teenager. And if the rules are broken, the consequences should follow suit, regardless of who the culprit is.

Remember, the goal isn't to punish but to teach a lesson, much like watering a plant so it grows in the right direction.

Quality Time: Divide and Conquer

In a busy world, where time is as precious as the last piece of chocolate cake, giving individual attention to each child can be a challenge. But it's crucial. Spending quality time alone with each child can make them feel special and understood on their own terms, not just as a member of the sibling squad.

It could be as simple as reading a book together before bed or going on a walk where conversations can flow as freely as their little legs.

Conflict Resolution Coaching

Think of yourself as a coach rather than a referee. A coach doesn't run onto the field to play the game but gives the players the tools to play it better. Teach your kids how to express their feelings assertively, not aggressively. "I feel upset when you borrow my toys without asking," holds more empathy than "Stop taking my stuff!"

Role-playing can be a great way to practice these skills. You can pretend to be one sibling, and your child can be the other, then switch. It's a safe space for them to see both sides and understand the impact of their words and actions.

Open Communication

Create an atmosphere where feelings are not just clouds passing in the sky, ignored or unacknowledged, but are rather like birds that are welcomed to perch and be observed. Encourage your children to talk about what's bothering them. Sometimes, just the act of being heard can deflate the biggest arguments.

And don't forget to communicate with your partner or co-parent too. Being on the same page is like singing a duet—it's much nicer when you're in harmony.

Seeking Outside Help

If the rivalry has turned into World War III, and you're out of diplomacy strategies, it's perfectly okay to ask for help. Sometimes, a family therapist or counselor can provide new strategies or help uncover deeper issues. It's like calling in a superhero team when the villains are too much for one hero to handle.


sibling rivalry help

Final Thoughts

Through your guidance, siblings can learn to navigate their disputes with respect and empathy, transforming rivalry into a lifelong friendship. The goal isn’t to erase all conflict—after all, a little bit of rivalry can be a healthy part of growing up. Instead, it’s about equipping your children with the tools they’ll need to build strong, supportive, and loving relationships, both within and outside the family tree. So take a breath, mom. With love, patience, and a sprinkle of wisdom, you can be the help that turns sibling rivalry into sibling revelry.

Up next, From Foes to Friends: Sibling Rivalry Solutions for Parents.


Hi! I'm Jen, and I'm thrilled you stopped by!

I am a certified life coach, mother of five, wife, founder of the non-profit Eye on Vision Foundation, entrepreneur, Christian, and friend. I live, play, work and worship in the Orlando, Florida area.

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