How to help siblings get along?

What's Covered

If you have more than kids it is probably hard to make peace at home. Even if their age gap was too close or too far, there will still a sibling rivalry. If their age is too close it is a problem because they like the same thing and for the age gap that is too far, there is a rivalry still because they have a different interest. There are times that they were too close and later they are shouting to each other. If you know how to manage and when will you step in to their fights then it will be an effective way to make them relate to each other’s company. There are some tips below on how you can enable your parenting to your children.

Factors that the sibling can affect how well they can get along

Siblings’ rivalry is something that siblings compete for their parent’s love and acknowledgement. The signs that there is a sibling rivalry are name-calling, hitting, arguments and childish behavior. Sibling rivalry is a part of growing up and can affect their company to each other as they get older. There are still kids that grow up to be the best of a friend to their sibling but it is common that some of the siblings to have fight. There are some factors that the sibling can get affect how well they can get along to each other:

1.      Siblings that is close in age

If the siblings have a very close gap or with the same age like twins or multiple, they are possibility to have a sibling rivalry. Since they have the same age, they have a same goal and they compete to each other. They might want more praise and attention to their parent than the other siblings. That is the start of jealousy and dissatisfaction to the other sibling that they are competing for. Sibling that is close in age is more likely to be a rivalry than farther of age.

2.      Siblings with same sex

For the siblings with same sex, probably they will share many things about their interest and probably will compete about this. Since they are the same girl/boy they are times that they want to show off if who is better in some specific reason. They want to be the best among all others since they have similarities in every way.

3.      Middle Child

The middle child is something in between with the older child and the younger one. While the older child is someone that they treated strong and the younger sibling is the baby of the family that is the time that sometimes the middle child was overshadowed by the other sibling that can make them dulled and their personality tempered or quiet.

4.      Divorce Parents

For the children with a divorce parents, they will probably a sibling’s rivalry especially if they are living with step siblings and was driven to compete with their parents who they live with. They think that there is a competition of who is the better to them. The more the attention they can get from parents than the other siblings can make them think to be a rival to them.

Sibling Rivalry fights

Siblings’ rivalry is a part of parenting, such as feeding them and potty training. It’s been part of a culture to think that the kids have fight, there’s a lot of time that they cannot get along and can’t understand things on how to deal it on their own. Conflict with their siblings somehow helpful for them, they can know who they are and can be sense their own identity. But we, as parents our roles are very important to guide them on those situations. We can help to make them understand what is the truly essence of their siblings. But before that let’s talk about the reasons why kids fight:

1.      Their different needs

As they get older their needs, wants and perspective change that can affect on how well they can get along to their siblings. For example, if you have toddler, they are naturally protective to their belongings like toys, shoes or what they want to keep. When a toddler has a baby sibling and the baby picks up the toy that belong to their toddler sister or brother, they may react self-asserting, aggressively. A toddler has a sense of equality and fairness but they are not aware why the other younger siblings was treated differently that’s why a fight can be occur. For the teenagers, they have a sense of independency and individuality, as they get older, they will develop those traits, that’s why they might resent or dislike to do some household chores, taking care of the younger siblings or to spend time together. It is important also to prepare our existing children and the upcoming baby to reduce sibling rivalry, it should not lead to jealousy to avoid future conflicts between them[1]. All of these differences of need can affect and influence the way they treated each other.

2.      Individual personality

Your children have a different personality or characteristic such as moods, ability and disposition. They’re differences has a big role on how well can they get along for example, the other one is an easy going kid while the other is easily get irritated so if they get along with such a mood the probably get into a fight or arguments. Another example is if the other child is clingier to the parents to get some attention, comfort and love it might be resented by the other siblings that is not a clingy type but wants the same amount of comfort and love.

3.      Special needs/sick kids

If you have a child that has a special needs or sick kid, it might misunderstand by the other sibling the way parents treated and taking care the kids with special needs. It may take time and need more parental time for them than the other. The children who don’t have special needs may be jealous and act to get the attention that they want just like their sibling that has a special need.

4.      Good Example

If the parent is a good example of the way you treat the others. They will definitely adopt it. For example, if you and your spouse is having a conflict or problem and dealing with this with respect and understanding the way your children see this will give them ideas that dealing with one another needs respect and understanding to fix everything. But if you show to your children that you are disrespecting each other like shouting, slamming the door or arguing it loudly they will definitely adopt it and can treat their children like this.

Advantage of sibling conflict

A sibling’s conflict is natural especially when they are still young, whenever they are having fights their sibling it is important to coach them and make sure that they learned a lesson from it. Remember, that sibling is their first friends and peers and on how they interact to each other can adopt to their future friends outside your home, it is important that learning how to be friends with their sibling can make them a good friend in the future[2]. The following is the advantage o lesson learned from having fights with their siblings:

Conflict that has a purpose

If your children are having fights it means they have a purpose, it may not be good way of showing the purpose because they are fighting but still there are some reasons why is that happen or they have a mission on how they can show their purpose. For example, your 4-year-old toddler was crying because his older brother gets the toys, before you think that he’s been bad to her sister, look and reflect on what they feel, ask yourself why is he doing this? Maybe he’s missing you and when he gets his sister cry you will run like crazy to her and he can at least disturb you because he wants some attention, he may have a good mission but is not a good method because he makes her sister cry. As a parent we don’t need to get angry without talking to them, if we get angry, we will upset them more. Let’s try to be understanding and know what they need while coaching them in a good way that they cannot hurt by our words.

Conflict which is a room for growth

Sibling’s conflict can promote growth, maturity that they can adopt as they get older. Having fights with their siblings serve as a life experience. It will be a training ground and an opportunity to us, as parent to teach them right behavior on how they can treat each other and other people outside your home. It can improve their social interactions that they can adopt into adulthood.

Conflict with teachable moments

As long as their fights doesn’t include hurting physically, their conflicts are beneficial to them. I have a good friend of mine and they are 3 sibling girls; my friend is the middle child and she is not getting along well with her sisters. The way she struggles and having some difficulties with her sisters mold her into what she is today. Now, she is calmer while dealing with stressful things. Sibling conflict can teach them to apologize, use their coping skills, overcome challenges, communicate, develop friendships and build their social interactions.

Disadvantage of sibling conflict

While sibling conflict has a beneficiary for them, then it has a disadvantage as well. Fighting is having arguments with another that can lead to violence. So, from the meaning of fighting, it has a negative effect already. This can result in hurting emotionally or worse hurting physically. Siblings supposed to love each other so with the guide of the parents you can lead them to right pathway from fighting to make up with each other. Another disadvantage is they can have low self esteem or worse it can be damaged due to conflicts or otherwise they can be the bullies that they can adopt as they get older and can adopt outside home or can hurt other’s feelings besides their siblings.

It is important to our children that if they become an adult they can lean with their siblings since they are family. If they continue to fight until they got older, they can have poor relationship with them so they will be lack of empathy and being not caring to others.

We, as parents we can help them to be aware of their siblings’ feelings and how to treated each and everybody. We have a big role on this, and as a person we are the role models. What we show is what they show.

They are starting to fight, what to do?

Whatever happens don’t get involved with their fights except if they are hurting physically. If you step in to their arguments you just give them more reason to get fight. If you intervene to them, they will always expect you to help than learning how to fix things alone with one another. There are times that they might misunderstand that you are protecting one of them that turns into more resentment to each other. They will feel that they are being rescued all the time and it’s okay to fight since they are being saved by the parents. If you are concerned about their bad mouthing to each other it is better if you just give them advice or just coach them about using more appropriate words towards their sibling. Coaching is different from stepping in or trying to resolved their problem. If you intervene make sure that you are resolving their problems with them not for them. Here are some examples to consider before stepping in to their fights:

  • Make sure that you separate them first. Let them calmed down before tackling about the conflict. Let their emotions down because if you escalate the problem with them with their emotions they will probably fight again.
  • Don’t focus on who’s fault or who to blame. Both is responsible to the fight since they are two involved.
  • Make sure that they both win on their fight like they both gain a lesson which is their reward.

Why are siblings to get along is important?

Siblings’ good relationship is important just like the parents and caregivers who lean to each other in difficult times and so the siblings. A good relationship of the siblings will benefit them for the journey of life that we can see over the years to come. Siblings can help each other through rough time, they can motivate each other whenever they need someone that they can lean on, because that’s what family is. Support from siblings is a big role as they get older.

When they still young, their siblings can be a role model to them that can affect their emotional development and child’s social. They can also have a chance to get friends with their brother and sister to figure out how to value and nourish the friendship that they started with their siblings that can adopt when they are getting friends outside home. When they already a teen ager, there are times that a teenager is having a hard time opening up to their parents, so they can lean on to their siblings because they treated them as friends and it is an advantage since, they are friends with their siblings, they can help them to open up to their parents together.

Seeing that sibling is getting along well is very rewarding as a parent. Seeing them supporting each other is very heart flutter that they love each other. A home with a loving sibling is a great home.

Guiding them as a parent in dealing with their siblings

When the children are fighting it is not advisable that the parents will intervene. It makes their fights longer and will always expect the parents to be there to fix things instead of dealing it on their own. Guiding them or preventing the fights is different in stepping-in on their fights. The following is some tips on how to prevent them to fight while learning to handle their emotion dealing with it:

Have rules

Many kids were fighting over the parent’s attention or toys. If they are fighting over it, it is best to have rules and regulations including the time on who will use the toys first, or if they want to watch tv but they have a different channel to be watch then there will be a schedule to their favorite cartoon or sports to be watched. If they want to walk outside and the other one just wants to read books with you then give time for the both of them. Giving them time regarding their differences can less their fights especially to the attention that they want from you.

Treating them based on age

Treating them based on their age is a helpful tactics to be connected to your kids. You can’t be treated them the same way because they will not understand it well, especially when they are younger, they are not mature yet to understand things like the older kids. For the younger kids make sure that you have a scheduled time for them especially they are the one that needs more attention. Feeding time, playtime and sleeping time is needed to be scheduled so that you can have time for your older kids. For the older kids, since they can understand some things that a younger one didn’t, you can communicate with them for example like having a written contract with their sign that they are allowing their siblings to play together or giving them time and space for their playtime. For the teen ager, since they are more mature and feeling of independency, you can ask for their suggestions and opinions in that way you can communicate with them.

Positive Reinforcement

Providing positive reinforcement to the kids is very simple. While they are coping to the rules and regulations that you set at home, they will surely on process to adjust and when the time comes that they are fighting on something don’t focus on their bad behavior or the behavior that you don’t want just focus to the things or to the behavior that you want. Ignore the complaining and whining just focus to the things where they doing it right and praise them. Give them some rewards like extra time on tv, or snack that they can share with their siblings since they are doing a great job. A small attention and appreciation from parents can make a sibling follow the rules including the treatment towards their sibling.

Making them to understand differences

If you make them understand their differences then it will be a big help for a lesser fight. It might be a different rule for every each of them but the differences don’t mean it is unfair. Especially, for their age, they are some activities that the older kids will attend to. For example, the older kids spend time more outside the house because of school while the younger kid got jealous because of that, in this situation you can explain to them that his older brother spends time outside because he is studying and time will come that he can spend also a lot of time in school to study.

This is also a chance to know and make them understand that life isn’t fair and the time will come that they can experience what they want someday.

Giving them roles and responsibilities

Talking with your children about their specific roles and responsibilities can help them to get along well. If you have a teen ager or the older children definitely their responsibilities are different to the younger ones. They babysitting their younger sibling or sometimes a helping hand to the household chores. It is important that you have an open conversation with the kids and to inform the younger one to behave as a help to their older sibling. You can explain to the younger child that their older sibling has a different task and make sure that your older child is aware on what responsibilities they have and you are grateful for that because of their help. Give your older children time since they are more emotional and sometimes dealing with stress, make sure that they get emotional support from you as their parent or caregivers. In this kind of tips, your children may feel that they are doing a good job and they are a helping hand to their sibling and to their parents.

Shared moments together

Children sometimes fight because they think one of them is better on the eyes of their parents. In able to avoid this kind of situation you can give them some activities that they can shared together. For example, when they finish mopping the floor together, you can tell them that they are doing a good job and they are both helpful. If they have a same interest like playing some boardgames you can ask them to play together since they love that game, and you can tell them that you love seeing how they figure out the game together. A simple movie night and a daily walk exercise every morning can promote positive love and affection to their sibling. Their sibling will be special to them since they are sharing moments together.

Here are some of the activities that your children can shared a moment together:

Reading

Reading book to the younger children even just telling the story by their older siblings is a good moment together. They can improve their relationship because the older children feels that they are nurturing while the younger children feels that they are being taking care of their sibling.

Dancing

Dancing with their sibling can help the be connected to each other while having fun. It gives them complete freedom the way they move around their body. Who knows? Maybe your children will be the next dance group superstar.

Water play

There are many activities on water. Swimming in an inflatable pool is one. It can develop athletic skills and social skills.

Drawing/Painting (Arts)

Doing arts can promote to freely engage even if they are in different ages.

Teach them problem solving

It is better if the children learn how to solve their own arguments and fights. Conflict last longer if the parents will intervene. They will always be waiting for you to solve their own problem and jealousy will occur thinking that you are siding one of them, younger and older siblings can affect their jealousy through child’s temperament and child’s emotional understanding from their parents[3]. The best thing that we can do for them is to guide them and teach them on how they can manage their own problem with their siblings. Giving them reason to love their sibling can change a lot towards the sibling’s relationship. The following are some tips on how we can teach them to solve their own problems.

Discuss the rules

Setting the rules is very important. As a parent you don’t need to intervene with their fights but you can set a rule on how they can mingle with their siblings. For example, they are teasing their siblings like name-calling or shouting at them. If you implemented the rules, you can ask them if name-calling, shouting or disrespecting their sibling is included on the rules, it shows that you’re just guiding and coaching them and it’s their choice on how they can show the outcome. Guiding them to do the right thing is different in stepping in or intervene to their fights. In that way, it is a big help on how they can get along well.

Let them express

They are fighting because they see the situation differently. Definitely! Let them to say or to express on how they see the situation is or how they get into their fight. They probably have a reason and give them a feel that you are listening to them. In that way, they can know the reason of their behavior to each other and can define the problem on their own.

Come up with a solution

After encouraging them to express, to listen, sympathy and share their feelings, coming up with a solution to their problem is next. Let them think and express on how they think they can make up with their siblings. Whatever the idea they come up let them give it a try and if it’s not working let them think another way to get well with their siblings.

Final Thoughts

Siblings’ relationship is the longest relationship that we can ever had in our life. Since being a child into their adulthood, you always have your siblings. Being get along well with our siblings has a big role in everyone’s life. It can be our life support like providing comfort, emotional support and can boost self-confidence. Their presence is like we have an allies and companions for life. Siblings is one of the reasons that we can know ourself more, identify what we really are and self-esteem. That’s why as a parent guiding and coaching them to love their siblings is a part of the way we taking care of them. Seeing our kids love each other is one of the fulfillments of parenting. Parent that was involved o their children’s journey including sibling’s rivalry can promote positive outcomes, a fewer behavioral problem and a good social conduct[4]. Always remember we are the role models of our children. What we show is the behavior they will show.


[1] Leung, Alexander KD, and Wm Lane M. Robson. “Sibling rivalry.” Clinical Pediatrics 30.5 (1991): 314-317.

[2] Connidis, Ingrid Arnet. “Siblings as friends in later life.” American Behavioral Scientist 33.1 (1989): 81-93.

[3] Volling, Brenda L., Nancy L. McElwain, and Alison L. Miller. “Emotion regulation in context: The jealousy complex between young siblings and its relations with child and family characteristics.” Child development 73.2 (2002): 581-600.

[4] Pirchio, Sabine, et al. “The Role of the Relationship between Parents and Educators for Child Behaviour and Wellbeing.” International Journal about Parents in Education 7.2 (2013).

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Author

Tiffany Biondi

Tiffany Biondi

Mother of 4 kids, Tiffany is a certified childcarer and during her free time, she write posts in thebabychoice to share her hands on experience and knowledge.

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