Check out this recording of our fun and informative webinar on dealing with this common parenting issue, and read on for some fast tips and tricks!

Effective solutions to sibling rivalry don’t always appear like they are directly addressing the problem, however, don’t despair or doubt the power of a few encouraging maneuvers. 

It might help to view sibling rivalry as a sign of discouragement, that the children are missing a feeling of positive belonging in the family.

When a family has a  cooperative style, people don’t feel the need to compete to know that they have value and worth in the family. When there is a lot of competition, think of this as an opportunity to foster more cooperation.  Some cooperation growing strategies include:

  1. Strengthen the connection between parent and child, one-to-one. (Special Time / Hang Time)
  2. Reduce the use of competition, comparisons, and labels. Be alert not to compare or pit children against each other.
  3. Resist the temptation to label one child as “the problem” and whenever possible, “Keep ’em in the same boat:” if there is a consequence, everyone experiences the same. 
  4. Give the family opportunities to appreciate each other and listen to each other.
  5. Have regular family meetings and practice listening to each other. Together, role play how to problem solve issues together.
  6. Create safe spaces (“feel better” corners) in your house where individuals can go if they’re feeling stressed. Help each person create their own space. For example, a family made a spot behind the couch where the children liked to hide. They added soft pillows, books, and stuffed animals. At any point, they made it OK for a child to say, “I need to take a break! I’ll be back.” 
  7. Train your children in self-calming techniques. For example, practice breathing exercises and teach your children “Starfish Breathing” or ask them to share a mindful breathing activity they may have learned in school! A simple one is: pause,  take four deep breaths: in, pause, outout, pause (repeat)
  8. Create a list of responses that children might choose in the moment when they are frustrated. Together with your children, create a “wheel of choice” (see description below) and place it in a spot where children can access it easily independently of you. At the start, you may find it useful to give a gentle reminder that might sound something like: “It looks the wheel of choice could be of help in there, I look forward to hearing what you decide to do. I’ll be outside walking the dog.”
  9. Teach emotion coaching: listen for the feeling and give it a name in a tentative way
  10. Model handling disagreements with courage and listening. Take a moment to listen first, reflect back what you heard, ask for corrections and additions, then share your experience.  Share with your children how you solve problems with people that you love. Sometimes children will see their parents disagree and they won’t see how the parents work together to solve their differences – listening for each other’s feelings and needs, brainstorming together, etc.  Let the children in your life know how you work things out with respect.