What to Do When Sibling Rivalry Strikes

Siblings. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. You know your kids love each other and sometimes they show it. Sometimes. But then one kid comes to you screaming in absolute horror after the other cuts off a chunk of their hair, or the oldest calls the youngest stupid or insert here any number of scenarios that can absolutely break a parent’s heart.

Constant sibling rivalry just makes parenting all the more exhausting. Trust me. I know. With four kids, we see our fair share of sibling rivalry. Add to that my 27 students, and I’ve heard all the stories. The sibling rivalry is real, and so is the jealousy, and so is the bickering. How do you deal with it? Here’s what has worked for me.

Be Empathetic   

I read a book one time that changed our lives. It said that kids just want someone to empathize with them. So when our kids complain, I say something like “Oh man. That must have hurt your feelings.” Even though what I really want to say (or scream) is, “COME ON. You’re fine. Just play nice!!” But I know empathy will get me a lot farther, so I try to keep my cool. You can too with a few tips on communicating with kids.

Coach Your Team

Give your kids a job to do together as a team. A puzzle to finish together, a picture to color together, a story to read together, a game to play together. This helps teach them to be teammates instead of rivals. Just expect there to be some fighting at first. Not everyone works well together from the get-go – just think about how long it took you to warm up to your one child’s BFF’s mom (ugh, perfect moms).

Mom Made Me Do It

Tell them if they can’t get along, you’ll have to be that embarrassing mom. Do they really want you taking a photo you can use to embarrass them forever? If they just won’t quit with the griping on each other, grab a big T-shirt (I’m talking XXL, at least) and put it on the kids, making the neck and sleeve holes bigger if you need to. Write something cute on the front that says “BEST FRIENDS” or “WE WILL NOT FIGHT.” And something on the back, like “MY MOM IS THE BEST MOM EVER.” Then take a pic, or ten! They might just start behaving if they know mom has those photos and could put them on Facebook at any moment. I’m kidding with this one. Well, half kidding. Anything’s worth a shot!

Take It Away

The easiest way I’ve ever been able to stop arguments is to take things away. If they fight, I take the toy or whatever it is and put it up high, out of reach and out of sight. I say “No one can have this because if it is causing you to fight, I don’t want it in our house.” Amazing what they’ll do to get it back, including playing nice. Even if they’re pretending, I’ll take it!

You Figure It Out

When your kids are old enough, have them work out their differences without dragging you into it. The first time you do this, talk them through it. How could you work this out? Could you each take turns? Could you watch one show today and one tomorrow? Could we go to her house first and then to the mall today, and next time we switch? Let them come to a compromise. I promise this solution will be your best friend if you can walk them through it at first.

Kids will argue, and that is normal. You will go crazy over it, and that is normal too. Working at it every time to help them find solutions is your best chance at stopping the sibling fighting. Teach them how to handle it and solve the problem. Don’t tolerate hitting (automatic time out) and don’t tolerate name calling (automatic time out). The rest can be smooth sailing with a little patience.

And remember, there will always be some sibling rivalry, and that can be a good thing. Compete all you want for better grades and cleaner rooms, kids!

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