Sibling Rivalry: helping your children get along better

Most siblings argue and fight with each other from time to time. Their relationship is influenced by their personalities, ages, genders, family environment and numerous other factors. At times, they can be great friends, and at other times, their interactions can become quite tense. Here are some things you can do to help your children get along better:

Talk to your children about the benefits of having a sibling (i.e. having someone to play with). Tell them about your own sibling(s), particularly about the fun you had as children as well as the fact that they are still there for you as adults.

Do things together as a family (i.e. bake cookies, play a board game, go to a park, etc.). Encourage your children to engage in tasks that require cooperation with each other. When you spend time with one child (i.e. helping him or her with homework), provide an activity for the other child as well (i.e. give art supplies to your younger child who can draw alongside). In addition, spend some time with each child alone: even 10-20 minutes together will allow you and your child to reconnect, and for each of your children to feel special.

Avoid interfering in minor squabbles to avoid reinforcing this behavior with your attention. Allow your children to problem-solve and negotiate their own solutions, as well as learn how to get along with others. Interfere only when behavior is inappropriate (i.e. physical fighting). If a situation escalates, ensure that everyone remains safe. Listen calmly to each child’s point of view and acknowledge their feelings.

Have rules/consequences that apply to everyone. For example, fighting or shouting results in time-out for everyone; alternatively, a day in which everyone gets along is rewarded by a family board-game or a trip to a park.

Do not compare your children to each other and do not tell them that you love them “equally.” Each child is different; try to treat each of them fairly (based on their individual needs) and tell them that you love them “uniquely.” When asked “why” a sibling gets a special privilege, explain calmly that each child has special things that only they get to do (i.e. later bedtime for an older child, more time with parents for a younger child).

Model the behavior you want to see from your children and pay attention to how you interact with others (particularly family members).