31 Methods You Need to Know for Handling Siblings’ Relationship
Having a sibling or siblings can be a joy and a pain. It is a joy because you get to share things you wouldn’t dare to share with your parents. Someone whom you can laugh with, cry with, do crazy and weird things with. At the same time, it can be a pain. There can be endless fights and arguments no matter how big or small thing is. From who really is the parents’ favorite down to who will wash the dishes tonight? No matter how big or small thing is, one can really not argue that the best and worst fights one has is with their siblings.
Over the years, numerous research and studies has been conducted around siblings’ relationship. There are studies on sibling rivalry, sibling conflict, how sibling relationship impacts one’s relationship with other people and many others.
Research has shown that sibling relationship often plays a major role on how we will interact in other relationships with friends, romantic partners and others in life.
Siblings Relationship… Why is it Important?
Apart from the relationship you build with your parents, the next most important relationship one needs to build and foster is the relationship with your siblings. The relationship with a sibling is usually the longest relationship that an individual will experience in the total lifetime.  A 2012 study on sibling relationships and their influence on childhood and adolescence found that there are different ways siblings influence one another that affects their personality and the way they build relationship with others
One can say that sibling relationship is like a laboratory for children to learn more about the world. It is a safe place to discover and understand different personalities, engage and manage disagreements and conflicts through different means, learn how to make friends and understand the value of friendship and other type of relationship that they will have to deal with other people.
Tools for Handling Sibling Relationship
Now that you have an understanding on what sibling relationship is, how important having good sibling relationship in developing personality and social skills of your siblings, the next question is, how can you apply these understandings?
In addition to the 31 methods I have listed below, there are excellent books available that will help you in understanding your siblings and having that positive and nurturing relation with your kin.
These books had served me their purpose. As the eldest in the family of six, I have my fair share of difficulties in handling and understanding my siblings and I have used the methods from these books to smoothen some conflicting situation with my siblings and it works! I highly recommend them!
Siblings without Rivalry- by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish
Whether you’re a parent or the eldest in the family, this book really serves it purpose. It is an eye opener and focuses more on understanding the causes of siblings’ rivalry. They have covered issues resulting to sibling rivalry with humor and compassion. This book is not just for parents who wish that their kids will have a good relationship but it is also a good read for the siblings. Apart from the great learning that the book has to offer, when it comes to reading it, you have an option to read in
Dragon Sibling Rivalry: Help your Dragons Get Along. A Cute Children Stories to Teach Kids about Siblings Relationships (My Dragon Book) Paper back: by Steve Herman
A cute story to tell to siblings ages 4-8. This book teaches kids how to get along with your siblings, how to be kind, how to be patient and how to love the new addition to the family. Apart from the cute pictures and colorful illustrations, the book talks about that having a sibling is not just pure fun, having siblings’ means accepting him/her, sharing your toys, your room, and the attention that you are solely getting from your parent when your sibling hasn’t been born yet?
Adult Siblings Relationship- Geoffrey Greif and Michael Wooly
If you are looking for a more serious research based approached books on how to handling sibling’s relationship, then Adult Siblings Relationship by Geoffrey Greif and Michael Wooly will answer that for you.
According to a review posted by Scott Myers,- West Virginia University, this book combines classic family theories and with both research findings and contemporary case studies. It provides an insightful yet fascinating glimpse on how adults handle siblings’ relationship. Since the book offers a research based approached in siblings’ relationship, this is recommended both for general readers and professionals.
31 Methods You Need to Know for Handling Sibling Relationship
When you promote transparency, open communication and create a fun and healthy environment, you will not only prevent rivalry amongst siblings but it also promotes togetherness, and increase closeness in the process. Before you know it, there will be peace in harmony in your home which I think is everyone’s goal
These 31 methods will give you some ideas on how to handle siblings’ relationship. Most of it you might already be doing but unaware that you are actually doing it. Read on to get more ideas and methods on how to have a healthy sibling relationship.
1. Never Compare
Every kid is different, so are your siblings. One might excel in sports and the other might excel academically. If you want to teach your siblings the value of equality and fairness, then you have to avoid comparing them to one another.
There are a lot of studies and research that proves comparing kids has a great impact on their confidence and self-esteem. As a sibling, your role is to uplift their spirits and make sure that they feel good about themselves.
One thing that I always do and works with me and my siblings is that I tell them upfront that comparing yourself to other people is not good. Always celebrate their success no matter how big or small it is. Always highlight what they can do best rather than what they can’t do great. And admit your fault and say sorry if you compared them with your other siblings
2. Respect Begets Respect
Respect is a two way street. It doesn’t mean that if you are the eldest, you will automatically get respect from your siblings. Authority does not equate to respect. One great way to foster siblings’ relationship is to show your sibling that respect is to be earned.
3. Learn to Agree to Disagree
There will be a lot of times and trust me with the word “A lot” that you and your siblings will fight over simple things like if K-pop is better than any American, British or other bands, who is the GOAT in NBA or the never ending argument as to which came first, the egg or the chicken. And trust me, no one will admit defeat or even let go of the argument.
Admit it there will always be situations regardless as to how close you are with your siblings, you can’t just meet in the eye. In this situation, well the best thing that both of you can do is to accept the fact that sometimes the saying “men are from mars and women are from Venus” is also applicable to you and your siblings. Getting along with your siblings and having a positive relationship is far more important than proving a point and trampling their opinion about something. This book by Sara Hamaker will give you a lot of information on how to get along with your siblings.
4. Divide and conquer… the chores
Most often than not, siblings rivalry often starts with chores. Who will wash the dishes, who will clean the house, who will take care of the baby, these might be petty to others but in the family, this is a big thing. And this often results to conflict, fighting and disagreement.
Have a schedule – post the schedule as to who will do the dishes today or tomorrow on the fridge.
Honor the schedule- don’t make excuses that you are busy, you didn’t eat today at home, etc etc. Show your siblings that schedules are there to be followed regardless of the situation.
5. With maturity comes mutual and reciprocal relationships
As siblings mature, so is the relationship. As you mature, you tend to be more understanding, more forgiving, and more patient and you find that you and you siblings have a lot of thing in common and share similar opinions about some things.
When I was 5, my sister and I always fight as to who will be Sailor Moon. We both wanted to be Sailor Moon and nothing else. Looking back, I just laughed at those times because thinking about it now, be we both agree that it was silly and cringe worthy I guess the only good thing that came out of that argument is the realization that we share the same liking for black cats.
6. Make time for Family Bonding
Bonding with the family does not only bring siblings together, it also brings the whole family together. Family bonding doesn’t necessary need to be grand like going out of town. It can be as simple as watching Netflix together, playing games together. Sounds easy eh? But with all the distractions that we have now, work, technology, gadgets and all, we most of the time set aside and forget the importance of being together and bonding with each other.
7. Emphasize the need for personal space
Siblings may sometimes get insensitive for your need of personal space. This is so true especially in other countries and culture. I grew up in a close knit family culture where personal space is not observed. Where you will have to share your home with your parents, your siblings family and their kids and even with your Grannies at some point.
This need was somehow estranged to me until I grew up and decided to live independently. And mind you there a lot of arguments as to why I need to move? am I not happy with my life and all. It was hilarious and at the same time an eye opener to me
Now that I am a parent I make sure that my kids understand what personal space is and how important it is to them and their siblings. I tell them that their personal space is their comfort zone and the only time when they can let anyone enter their personal space is if they know the person too well, or if they are comfortable with that person.
8. Pause… Pause… Pause
Ever heard of the saying “Don’t promise when you are happy, don’t reply when you are angry, and don’t decide when you are sad”
Taking a pause or cool off times in any situation where emotions are heightened is the best practice that I learned from my parents. You see, when I was a kid and my mom and I are out something, I will always have this one toy, or a shoe, or ice cream flavor that I would really like and threw tantrums on. Of course my mom is not the type who will give in to my caprices. And she is also not the type to shut me up point blank. She will take her precious time (I am not sure if she was thinking that it was a bad thing to have me go with her or what) pause, watch me threw a face until such time that she thinks I am okay and talk to me. She will then explain that she can buy me that toy or that shoe or that ice cream now, but then she will ask me this “Do you really need that? Or you just want it because it is new to your eye?” Which most of the time made me think. Then she will drop the bomb “Honey here’s the thing, I want you to think carefully and check yourself if you really want that toy. We will go back here again after 3 days and buy that toy for you.
Long story short, 80% of the things I instantly like, I did not buy it. I used this trick with my siblings and now with my kid. Not to trick them but to make them think. And it is totally effective. Most of our life decisions are not made in haste (though sometimes we still impulsive buy a cute red shoe and not regret it J
9. Open communication solves all conflicts
“I don’t even know you at all!” “You are totally different from the person I know” This is the last thing that you would like to hear from your siblings. I would like to hear my siblings shout at me because I said something that she didn’t like than having to hear these words.
Having an open communication with your siblings and telling them how you really feel will create a deeper bond and will make you understand each other better. Not only you will get to know your siblings well, but this will also serve as an avenue to let go of things that stressing you out, avoid having anxiety as well as depression.
Also, having an open communication, telling them what you really like, what you don’t’ like and vice versa, can help improve the way you handle and manage each other as siblings. You can be more sensitive or supportive of each other. Also it a joy and comforting to know that there is this one person (or more) whom you can really have a nice conversation with and who really know and understand you (Apart from you parents of course)
10.Playing parent to your siblings is never a cool game
I understand that you are the eldest and you have a great role in the family especially when your parents are out. But it doesn’t give you the right to control your siblings (your parents won’t like it too!)
Imposing your authority and playing parent with your siblings just so you can get to have the control of the remote control, or have the best seat in the car is not a great way in managing your relationship with your siblings. It creates animosity, fear and will eventually lead to a rebellious behavior if not handled well. Sometimes your siblings do not understand why you have such authority over them.
Instead of playing a parent, play the big brother or big sister. This is what your siblings know you. You are their big sis or big bro. In this way they will see things in a different perspective and it will be a lot easier for you to make them follow you.
11.Differences comes with age gaps
Age gaps, gender and birth position are just some key factors that influences your relationship with your siblings. My brother and I have a 3 year age gap and during our younger years we fight a lot. It was like every day we have our own version of WWE and there was never a day my mom would find peace in the house. This WWE bout never happened with my other siblings that came after my brother.
Further, gender and birth order also plays a big role in sibling relationship development. A good book to read and understand the psychology behind this is The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are by Dr. Kevin Leman
12.Don’t Play Favorites
Studies show that parents, as well as siblings have favorites. No doubt about that. But the key to having a positive sibling relationship is to never show that you have favorites. Knowing that you have a favorite will create jealousy and animosity. Most of the time, it will cloud your judgment, or the other side will lose their confidence on your judgment knowing you have favorite.
Be clear and direct when dealing with unwanted behaviors. Never take sides and always make it a point to make your siblings feel that they are all equal by listening to their side of the story. If your sibling feels that you are taking sides, it won’t take long for them to build a wall that will crack a good relationship you have with them.
13. Your role, your impact
I have mentioned that birth order also plays a critical role in siblings’ relationship right? I have said this because family is the first government that they will be exposed to. Parents will be the President or the Prime Minister or the King/Queen. And the siblings, depending on the birth order will either be the Vice President, Cabinet Members or a commoner/citizen (that is if you are the youngest)
Although some research says that gender of the siblings and the age gap has lesser impact as compared to divorce and family structure, the findings are inconsistent. There might be a lot of factors that contributes to different results.
If I am to ask, based from my experience, your role has an impact in fostering that positive sibling relationship. Your siblings will look up to you; you might be their role model growing up among a lot of things. Whether you are the eldest or the youngest you influence one another.
14. Limit Strife
Prolonged sibling rivalry will just bring disagreement and bitterness to each other. Eventually it will lead to animosity and before you know it, the gap between you and your siblings can never be connected again.
Always talk things over. No matter how big, small or trivial the argument is. Remember what might be trivial and small for you might be a big thing to your siblings. It is always better to talk after a disagreement. Apart from the fact that this clears out the disagreement, it also creates an environment well everyone feel that they are being listened to and heard.
15. Apologize to the heart
Insincere apology is no apology at all. You live with your siblings in one roof and the best person who can say whether you mean what you say is your sibling. So in an argument where you need to apologize, if you want to apologize, mean it.
Apologizing is accepting that you are wrong and you want to make things right by offering apology. “Sometimes, a heartfelt “I’m sorry” fixes things right away. Other times, it might take a while for your sibling to accept the apology and talk to you again”. It’s totally fine. Remember cool-off times? This might be the best time to practice the power of pause just to let the sorry sink in.
16. Have a quality one on one time with each of your siblings
Spending time with your siblings equally is a great tool in handling sibling relationship. Most of the times, rivalry often happens when you siblings feel that you are spending more time with your other siblings than them. This will result in your sibling trying to get your attention by doing bad things.
To avoid this, you can designate regular one on one time with each of your siblings. If they feel that they are getting equal attention, there will be no rivalry and competition since no one is being favored over the other. They will also learn to respect each other’s one on one time with the process.
17. Respect whatever dreams they may have
“No dream is too big and no dreamer is too small” as they say. One best way to handle sibling relationship is respecting and supporting your siblings’ dreams. No matter how big or impossible it is, show them that you are always there to support their dream.
Remember the movie Patch Adams by Robin Williams? I have watched it thousands of times and I would never get tired of watching it. There are loads of things in that movie that can be applied on how you handle your siblings well. Like do not treat them as your siblings but treat them as an equal person. And most importantly if you can make their dreams come true, do it. Remember the pool filled with Spaghetti scene? If Patch Adams can do that to a person he only knew in the hospital, you can do that too with your siblings whom you shared everything with.
18. Enforce appropriate rules
Making things right and equal doesn’t always hit the target in the right way. We all know that life is not fair but we don’t’ want our siblings to grow up with this in mind. As much as possible rules that we are going to set may not be equal but appropriate to them.
For example if you set that your eldest who is 17 year old needs to be home by 11pm, same rule cannot be set to a 6 year old kid.
Rules need to be appropriate and suitable for the kids. Always remember that the reason we are setting rules is for their own good and for their success and not for their failure. Take for example, a 17 year old can do the laundry and the 6 year old can help put the clothes in the laundry basket. How is that?
19. Set Healthy Boundaries
One great method on how to handle sibling relationship is setting up boundaries with each of your siblings. What is fun for you might not be fun for your other siblings.
Also, you have to know when to intervene, when it comes to teasing, it will reach to a point where everything becomes serious and siblings will start to fight and might hurt each other. In this situation, you can intervene immediately, it’s okay to say that they are way out of line and it is no longer funny. In this way, your siblings will know when to draw the line in the future.
20.Use Books to Foster Healthy Relationship
In this world full of technology, vintage is precious. Promoting books and reading it together is one great way to bond with your siblings. There are lots of books available about life and relationship that you and your siblings can read together. It is also one great way to learn about each other and find common interest.
There are loads of books on siblings’ relationship that are created to be more animated and funny. When it comes to having fun while learning, I recommend these books.
Siblings: You’re stuck with Each Other so Stick Together by James J. Crist P.H.D
A full color illustrations and humorous kid friendly text which teaches kids on how to cope with problems of fairness, jealousy, conflict, and other things. This book also focuses on building positive sibling relationships. Everyone can easily relate to the book. You can learn and laugh at the same time. If you are looking for a “silver lining” I highly recommend this book
How to Take the GRRR Out of Anger by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisovskies
This book is a great read on how to deal with anger as early as kids’ stage. The book is a blend of solid information and sound advice with humor and lively illustrations. It will help you and your siblings to understand why anger occurs and ways on dealing with it.
21.Use Technology to Foster Healthy Relationship
Technology can be a great tool in handling sibling relationship. Technology, if use in a good way can be a great instrument in bringing the siblings together. Admit it, there are some things that we want to share but we are somehow uncomfortable talking about it. In the old days, we used to write letters to say the things we can’t say personally but now we can use our phones to do that.
22. Have meals together
The Family that eats together stays together. This is so true. One can never be too busy to not to share meals together on the family table.
Studies suggest that children of the family who eat together are less likely to have anxiety and more likely to bond well with their siblings.
23. Make them understand that they each have a role to fulfill
“It takes two to tango”. Relationship will not be successful if only one person is working on it. In having a positive sibling relationship, each one of the siblings has a role to play. Everyone is important and everyone has to share to make the relationship a success.
24. Teamwork is the new Dream Team
Teamwork with promotes connection which is essential in handling sibling relationship. Making your siblings feel that they are not alone and they always got your back on their successes and failure is a great way of connecting with them and at the same time building their confidence and self-esteem.
25. Negotiation is the key to a Win-win Solution
In situations where sibling rivalry is prevalent, the best resolution on how to handle it is through negotiation!
Oftentimes when we have conflict with our siblings, we think that the best way to handle it is to ditch it. Well it really doesn’t’ solve the problem. It makes the problem worst.
A Win-win solution is both parties will benefit with the solution. Below are some tips to arrive in a win-win solution with your siblings
- Honor the dispute: do not ditch it and let it go without a clear solution. Make your siblings aware that there is a problem and it needs to be resolve.
- Ask what they are upset about: Get both sides of the story. Both will have their own reason as to why the conflict arises but your job is to listen, validate and weigh things out.
- Don’t’ offer solution: this might be difficult for both you and your siblings but make them understand that the best person who can resolve the conflict is them. Making them understand the situation and making them realize why it happen, how it happen and what steps would they take not to make it happen again is a win win solution. You are just there to validate their feelings and reasoning but the resolution needs to come from them.
26. Always discuss things before bedtime
Ever heard of that saying ‘Don’t let the day pass without solving the problem” Talking and discussing things before going to bed helps foster great siblings relationship. You can agree with me that all if not almost all of us are in our neutral state of mind before going to bed. It means we can think rationally and logically and can make sound and wise decisions.
Talking things out before bedtime not only resolves conflicts but it also creates a bond between siblings. One can talk about anything before bedtime. From how did our day went in school or at work, to that movie moved us and made us cry. From experience, talking before bedtime is also a good avenue to tell your siblings about your secrets and them sharing their secrets to you too.
27. Too much of everything is as bad as a little of something
Spoiling your siblings and giving them everything they ask for just to either please them, connect with them, bond with them or to just make them shut up is not a good thing.
We know that there are different ways of showing love and affection. There is actually a book for that. Knowing your love language learning how to use it effectively with your siblings will result to a great sibling bond. When I say effective, it means not controlling, nor giving the affection too much.
I have discovered this book during when I am trying to find out what my love language is. Though the book is about parent- children relationship, but this book is still a good read. It will help you understand what your love language is as well as your siblings love language and how to learn it and discipline it in a way that it promotes positive reinforcement.
28. Having nothing can be as good as having something
When you have nothing, you tend to appreciate even the tiniest things that you will have. It will also make you and your siblings more resourceful and creative. This will improve the connection and the bond you have with each other.
29. Learn to let go
Letting go especially in heated situation doesn’t mean you are surrendering. It’s just that you and your siblings admit that there are some fights best to let go for it doesn’t make sense anymore. You let go of the argument because it causes disconnect but you both need to find a solution for the situation.
30. Keep calm and go on
You are the master of your own emotions. And being with your siblings is a good way to test it. A lot of times your siblings will test your patience, and a lot of times you will be so tempted to give in to your emotions. But if you are really into building a good relationship with your siblings, you always have to make sure that you can always control your emotions.
Having high emotional intelligence in handling sibling relationship is a lot better than having high IQ. If you can handle your emotions, you can handle difficult situation and solve it logically.
There are different ways on how you can keep calm in tight situations; it can be as simple as counting 1-10, thinking happy thoughts to applying proven techniques. Whatever works for you, do it. At the end of the day, it’s you emotion and your siblings that will be impacted by your actions.
31. Enjoy the experience
The last method that I want to share on how you can effectively handle and manage sibling relationship is to just enjoy the experience. Not everyone has the opportunity to have siblings to share their house with. And it’s not all the time that you and your siblings will be kids, will be in one house, laughing at your silly jokes and all.
Time will come that you and your siblings will build your own family, move out of the house and start you own life journey. I am not saying that you will no longer have that relationship with your siblings; all I am saying is things will never be the same once you get old. You will all need to find that “schedule” where you can all get together just to talk and bond. You will have different priorities in life and for all you know, the only time where you can really get to see each other is during Thanksgiving or Christmas.
With all these in mind, it is best to enjoy your childhood with your siblings. You fight, you argue about things, you hate each other, bully each other but at the end of the day, you will forget about it easily and laugh, joke about stuff as if nothing happens. This phase is also the best phase to create a positive relationship with your siblings. So that when things get too busy when you are all old, you will still find time to ask each other “how are you?” “Is everything okay?” and you and your siblings will have this feeling of security that whatever happens you got each other’s back.
Having siblings, creating and managing a good relationship with them is like a track with hurdles in between. Where right or wrong is always a debate. Where fights over petty things are always prevalent. What I’m saying is, there is no perfect formula out there that will work for everyone. You and your siblings create your own formula that will work best for all of you. Remember you and your siblings contribute to each other’s successes and failures. Books are there just to guide us, but the best person who would really know your siblings is you. You are doing a great job! Keep it up!
 Katherine Lee, How to Encourage Good Sibling Relationship.www.verywellfamily.com
 Siblings Relationships Across the Life Span – Victor Cicerelli – google scholar
 J Marriage Fam, Siblings Relationship and Influences in Childhood and Adolescence
 Sibling Relationship During Adolescence – Alfredo Olivia and Enrique Arranz – Google Scholar
 The Sibling Bond- Bank S. P & Kahn M.D – Google Scholar
 Children’s Siblings Relationship – Frits Boer, Judy Dunn, Judith Dunn – Google scholar
 “We Got to Figure it out”: Information-Sharing and Siblings Negotiations of Conflict of Interests- Abigail Ram, Hildy Ross- Google Scholar