Creative Child

Solutions for Sibling Rivalry

by Rebecca Eanes

If you're like me, you dreamed that your children would be best friends from the start. It's both heartbreaking and frustrating when your children fight and squabble with each other, but there are things you can do (and not do) to help build their relationships with each other.

It can be easy to compare siblings. "Your brother was potty trained by now! Why are you being so difficult! "" Your sister doesn't have these problems at school!" Sometimes these statements just bypass our brains and fly right out of our mouths, but they only serve to fuel rivalry. Even seemingly positive statements can have a negative consequence. "You are so much better at this than your sister" may seem like a compliment to the child you're speaking to, but it still encourages a competition mindset. And of course favoring one child over another will always cause resentment. We inadvertently set them up for conflict with these unconscious habits.

If you want a peaceful home, then peace has to be made a priority.

This means the children are absolutely not allowed to call names, be aggressive, or be rude to their siblings. When conflicts arise, I propose the peace circle. When 2 or more children argue, they should go to the peace circle (or table, rug, or couch), and here they are taught peaceful conflict resolution. You'll have to run through this several times with them, maybe even a lot of times if they are still very young, but eventually they'll learn to do it on their own, and peace will prevail. The first child is coached to start the conversation in the peace circle stating how she feels, why she feels that way, and what she would like her sibling to do.

For example, "I'm feeling mad because you took my doll. I want you to give it back!"

The second child is then coached to state his case in the same manner. Now you know what happened and what both children want, so you prompt them with "how are you going to solve this?" They may need ideas for solutions, and that's okay. They'll get the hang of it as they grow.


If they can't reach a peaceful solution, then the parent makes the final decision.

For example, you might say, "She had the doll and got mad because you took it. She wants it back, but you want the doll, too. How about you take turns? When she is finished playing with it, she will give it to you, and it will be yours for a while. When you are finished, you give it back. Does that work for you?"

If it works for everyone, then peace is reached, and you just need to make sure they follow through on their agreement. If they refuse to reach an agreement, you might say, "I'll take the doll and put it away until a peaceful solution can be reached. Your relationship is more important than the doll." Most often, they'd rather be in charge of the solution, so they'll work to reach one.

Related Article: 4 Parental Behaviors to Avoid

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