ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Creative Ways to Handle Sibling Rivalry

Updated on April 30, 2013

My kids are 4 and 2. They spend nearly every waking hour together, and as a result, we have encountered LOTS of division – mostly over toys. These are some things that work for us.

Give Them a Common Goal

My kids are scaredy-cats. I have no idea why, but they are scared of everything. Recently, one of our babysitters was laughing about their bedtime prayers, which go something like this: Dear God, please help the bears and dinosaurs not get me tonight. Thank you for helping me not to be afraid of the dark. Please help those bad dreams not to get mixed into the nice ones….

I have tried my best to protect them from the scary stuff and always made them stop pretending the big bad wolf was chasing them. I would say “there are no big bad wolves!” - until my mother-in-law provided some insight. She says that we have lost our sense of bravery and courage. These days our enemies are invisible - the War on Terror is a good example. “Back in the day” (her phrase, not mine :)), the enemy was easily discernible. The bad guys wore uniforms that did not match ours. They inspired people to make personal and deep sacrifices in exchange for freedom.

If there are no bad guys or big bad wolves, then how will we teach the virtues of bravery and courage?

As a result, I’ve gone back to letting them pretend they are running from giants. And this has turned into a very easy way to help them play together. They have a common goal: to defeat the giant. They can build a fort together to hide from the bad guys. Or one of them can stand guard to “fight the bad wolf and save” their sibling. Or they can just run and run and run around the yard or in the house imagining great escapes from sharks or dinosaurs. Recently, my son dropped one of his stuffed animals as he was running from “the bad guy”. He stopped to pick it up, and his sister went back to help him. Never leave a fallen comrade; it was a fun conversation starter.

It is not hard to find a common goal for your kids. Just come up with an “enemy” and let them work together to beat it. The “enemy” doesn’t have to always be the big bad wolf. It can be a timer, Daddy, dirty walls, Canada geese, or anything!


Here are some of our favorite examples:

  • Let them work together to push Daddy out of bed or to get something hidden out of his hand or to tickle him until he laughs or to give him a “back rub” with matchbox cars. Daddy is by far the best “toy” in the whole house!
  • Race against the timer to put all the toys back in the toy box.
  • Give them each a spray bottle and rag while they are taking a bath and let them “destroy all those pesky germs” on the sides of the tub. The spray bottle is also fun for cleaning the chalkboard-paint wall or the sticky spot on the floor.
  • Give them a stack of paper and have them squish each sheet into a ball for a family snowball fight (parents against kids is a fun way to divide into teams).
  • Let them run off the Canada geese. I'm sure I'll get parents who stop reading now. I know they can be dangerous, but just watch the video.

Some days, however, they are just not going to play nicely with each other. On those days I either set the timer and each child gets 4 minutes with the coveted toy or I take the toy away altogether and neither gets to play with it.


Don't Make a Big Deal about Being Fair

My son is not able to eat anything with sugar in it. If my daughter is offered a piece of candy at the bank, I politely turn it down. When questioned by her, my response is “we’ll be eating soon” or “we don’t really need sugar right now” or “you can have a different snack at home.” I would not say, “You can’t have it because your brother can’t have it.” That statement introduces the concept of fairness and equality. Those words sound lovely, but they give a false sense of reality. Life is not fair. Life is not equal. We each need to be grateful for exactly what we’ve been given in life and not fight to be equal with someone else. When my daughter is a teenager I’m sure I’ll have to deal with, “But everyone else is doing it.” But for now, that phrase is not in her vocabulary.

“Fairness” and “equality” also introduce the concept of competition. Great in sports, not so great among siblings. I do not want my kids competing against each other. We are all on the same team.

Another note on competition: I’m sure I fail at this more times than I’d like to admit, but I do valiantly attempt to not make my children compete for my attention. Again, we are all on the same team.

Eliminate the Potential Fight

Each night before the kids’ bedtime, we read a story. Mondays and Wednesdays my daughter gets to pick the book. Tuesdays and Thursdays my son gets to pick. The rest of the time I get to pick :) - there ARE advantages to being the parent! I know they would fight over who gets to choose the book, so I have eliminated this fight before it even starts.

Here comes a tangent: my husband and I used to use this method for determining who would win fights. If we were fighting on an odd day of the month, I won the fight. He won on the even days :) For the most part fighting is useless anyway, so we might as well make a childish game out of it!


Acknowledge the Good

Kids are amazing. They have the unique ability of having exactly the same faults as I have but in tiny bodies. I love what I learn from them. And they need to hear that I love them dearly.

  • She needs to know that I saw how hard it was to let her little brother pick his favorite TV show and that I’m proud of her choice.
  • He needs to hear that God has given him a fun personality, and I am grateful when he uses it to help his sister laugh.
  • They need to know I love when they play nicely together and hug each other and sing to each other.

Acknowledge the Bad

I’m not talking about discipline. That is another subject and a very important one. Now I am just talking about making sure your children know you adore them even when they are bad. There’s a verse in Jesus Loves Me that says “Jesus loves me when I’m good, when I do the things I should; Jesus loves me when I’m bad, though it makes Him very sad.” Every single day of their lives I want my children to know that there is nothing they can do to earn more of my love and there is nothing they can do to be denied of my love. They need that security. Just as we need that security! I want them to make good and loving choices because those habits will help THEM in the future, not because it will make me love them any more than I already do.

My kids love each other intensely. They also fight A LOT! I’m glad they fight with each other. It gives me a chance to see their passions and personalities and speak into their little lives before they go out into the world and fight with the giants and big bad wolves.



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • HeatherBlesh profile image

      Heather Ann Gomez 

      2 years ago from Monterey, CA

      I enjoyed your article. I think you gave some great tips. I shared it on my facebook page.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Illinois

      JPSO138 - Thanks for reading and encouraging! Enjoy raising your one. I'm sure that brings other kinds of challenges to work through :)

    • JPSO138 profile image


      6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      Great tips. When we were young me and my sister does not really get along. This would have come in handy for my parents. Well, I now have my own family but only have one child so there is no problem at all. But surely many will benefit from this hub. Up for this one!

    • profile image

      Betty kruszka 

      6 years ago

      The daddy "road shirt" is genius, simply genius!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Jackie, GREAT point about the child who can't have the candy looking like the enemy. I had never seen it that way, but it is so true! Like you said, no one is perfect. Parenting is a humbling adventure, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. God does have an interesting way of choosing the least likely people to make a difference for Him in the world :) And thank you for sharing!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      This is just great and I can see you have the common sense it takes to deal with children, such as the matter of the candy. Gee, doing otherwise can make the poor child that can't have any look like the enemy! No one is perfect but you are doing great I know. You have beautiful children and I am sure you would know God never discriminates. Look who He chose for the 12 apostles. Paul for one was an enemy to begin with maybe sort of how one of your children when delivered to you; but love conquers all.

      Up and sharing so all my friends can discover you!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Hi KristineWambui! Thank you for your encouraging comment. Welcome to HP. I hope you love it here!

    • KristineWambui profile image

      Christine Wambui Njogu 

      7 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      wow! I love it...Kids are such a blessing...A great and insightful article you have there..

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Lifelovemystery, thank you for the compliment; thank you for reading, and thank you for the follow :)

    • lifelovemystery profile image

      Michelle Orelup 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Great wisdom!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Faith! I remember fighting like crazy with my sister. Maybe girls just do that more. It sounds like you are extra blessed with all those grand kids. I hope you get to see them plenty :) And I hope the girls find something more positive to do than going at each other! God bless you too!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      7 years ago from southern USA

      Congratulations and thanks for the great advice here! I remember those days when my two were small, except mine were five years apart. Now, I have a three year old and five year old granddaughters and a six month old grandson. The girls are always at it. They can be fierce too!

      I will share this with their parents and put this advice into action too!

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Single With Kids - I think some kids are just more passionate than others, and it sounds like you have a couple of very passionate ones! Let's hope that as they mature they use their passion for something constructive :) Thank you for commenting.

    • Single With Kids profile image

      Chrissie Lewandowski 

      7 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      I really relish hearing other people's stories on this - it's comforting to know I'm not the only one caught up in the midst of full scale, sibling warfare! I've tried most things, I've failed at all. The battling continues and at 11 and 12 is unlikely to get less enthusiastic. I've developed the art of zoning out when they start, I've realised they actually enjoy the arguing so I now leave them to it as long as no blood is shed or it doesn't get physical.

      Here's hoping they'll grow out of it at some stage ....I'm not holding my breath.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Katperritte, I love that you have your kids teaching each other how to use toys. I think that is such an effective way to build relationships. And it sounds like it has paid off since your boys are very close to each other. Thank you for sharing your experience!

      Paresh, thank you for reading and for encouraging.

      Careermommy, It is nice to meet you! Thank you for reading an commenting. I hope your family finds some fun new ways to work together :)

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Expext GreatThings, this was a great hub. My kids are the same age, so I can relate to this so well. You offered some very useful tips for me. I love the ideas you give for working together, and taking turns on different nights to pick out the nightly book. Congratulations on being named hub of the day!

    • profile image

      Paresh Shrimali 

      7 years ago

      Nice Hub. too much informative & best information for how to care children & how to achieve goals in life ,, really best examples.

    • katperritte profile image

      Katrina Perritte 

      7 years ago

      I love the way you help your children deal with sibling rivalry. I grew up in a very different environment. From the time I was five till fifteen It was just me and my younger brother. As the oldest I was always made to give him anything I had he wanted. I had to let him win in any fight he could hit me but I could not hit him back or defend myself. I was five years older and I did drop him on his head every chance I got.

      I now have five sons of my own and I don't make any one give up a toy or allow hitting. The rule is that who has the toy first gives it to the first person who asked them for it. If an older son has a toy that's out of a younger sons age rang the older child shows the younger how to use it. They are very close to each other and the youngest sons will actually run to a big brother to kiss or hug a boo boo away as often as they run to me. I hope their learning good fathering skills while learning to be a good brother.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Keeley, I have often wondered how long the "common goal" approach will work. I'd love to hear how your older boys do when you try it with them.

      Vinaya, Thank you! Nice to "see" you again.

      Leahlefler, Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is true that every family is different. I do hope you'll find something that works for your kids so they don't compare themselves to each other. The other day my oldest asked me to spoon feed her her dinner. I told her I gladly would, but if she wanted to be a baby, she would have to start wearing diapers again and would not be able to pick out her own clothes. And that was the end of that :) But in your situation, your youngest would probably be GLAD to do the same chores as his big brother if it meant he got the same priveleges. You're not in an easy spot!

      Pinto2011, Thank you for reading and commenting!

      CZCZCZ, As the OLDEST of 3 I enjoyed picking on my younger siblings :) And I'm so thankful that they are forgiving and willing to have a relationship with me still!

      BrightMeadow, Thank you!! I look forward to reading your hubs :)

      Monisays2u, Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. We can never be completely finished editing, can we? :)

    • BrightMeadow profile image


      7 years ago from a room of one's own

      This hub is awesome! Not just for the tips-- which are very good-- but also for the writing. Nice job.

    • CZCZCZ profile image


      7 years ago from Oregon

      Great ideas for making kids get along. As the youngest of 3, I sure had my times of getting picked on by my older brothers, but we get along great as we all got older, but it can be a challenge for many kids while growing up.

    • pinto2011 profile image


      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is really going to help out troubled moms and dads and give the kids with a positive attitude from the very beginning. Very nice hub!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      I love your point about fairness. We really struggle with this issue with our five year old, who has suddenly discovered the concept. We were always careful not to introduce the concept of competition between our two boys (ages 5.5 and 7), but now that my younger son is older, he has become very competitive and wants to do everything my older son does. We reinforce that they are individuals and that Nolan's chores and privileges are specific to him - but this is a big struggle in our house at the moment. Having two boys close in age can be difficult at times!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      I came back to congratulate you. This hub is rightly awarded HOTD.


    • Keeley Shea profile image

      Keeley Shea 

      7 years ago from Norwich, CT

      A great spin on sibling rivalry. My children - two boys 6 and 10 are constantly fighting. I like the giving them a common goal approach. It is a great idea. I am going to give it a try. I would love to see them stick up for one another instead of trying to out do one another. Great hub!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Hi DzyMsLizzy, Oh how I wish family could "just get along!" Hopefully we get a little more mature as we get older :) When I was young and my sister and I started fighting on car trips, my dad would blast the radio until we stopped. I'm not sure if he wanted to drown out our arguments or just make it so we couldn't hear each other and therefore couldn't fight anymore. Either way, it worked. It's funny how different parents can do things so differently. Thank you for stopping by!

      Funom Makama, thank you for your compliment! I'm sure you will make wise decisions with your future children. You obviously already have a head start if you are beginning to gather information right now. Best wishes to you!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Wqaindia, What a challenge you've given me! I have a definite opinion about favoritism, but I don't know that I have good enough tips or knowledge to write a hub about it. It is a fascinating (and sometimes devastating) subject, though. I will have to think about it for a while :)

      ComfortB, Thank you for reading, commenting, and voting!

      healthwealthmusic, Thank you for your compliments. I'm guessing you could also offer some insight into this topic :) And I thank God everyday that my husband is willing to be a personal jungle gym for the kids - especially in the winter when they can't play outside!

      Sam, 5?!? I'm so impressed! I can only imagine how creative you have had to be with your sibling rivalry solutions! Thank you for your comment!

      Thelma, I am definitely not a perfect parent. And I'm sure when my kids grow up, they will wish I had done a lot of things differently. However, I sincerely hope they never think that I favor one over the other. They are each so precious and bring me such great joy. I can't imagine that any mother doesn't feel that way - even if she does appear to have a favorite. And I absolutely agree with you - favoritism does make sibling rivalry much worse! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Funom Makama 3 profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 

      7 years ago from Europe

      A hub worthy of note... Well done and thank you so much for this great insight, expectgreatthings... I just wished the hub should continue and was sad when I reached the end... For aspiring husbands and fathers like myself, I think its nice if we begin to learn from this early stage...

      Great work and accolade well deserved.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      7 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on HOTD!!

      Hmmm...I had fought many of these battles when my kids were growing up...but without your insight. Being an only child, I was at a distinct disadvantage in coping with sibling issues. I naively thought that "family should just get along." Yeah, right!

      Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      7 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Congrats on the hub of the day! I can relate to the situation on siblings rivalry when I was a child. It´s not good when parents have a favorite child. It just make the rivalry worst. Thanks for sharing these great ideas on how to handle sibling rivalry. I wish my mother knew that when I was a child.

    • profile image

      Sam Gurschick 

      7 years ago

      As a father of five I can definitely relate to forceful our children opinions can be. Especially when it comes to on sibling trying to exert that opinion on another. Good hub.

    • healthwealthmusic profile image

      Ruth R. Martin 

      7 years ago from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York

      Wonderful hub, and a topic I actually did not think of writing about! Our two children are 4 & 6 :) You offered great ideas and perspectives, thanks for sharing! (and yes, Daddy makes a wonderful play companion, he will rough around with them like I won't/can't :)

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 

      7 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Very interesting hub. Voted up and useful. Congrats on the HOTD award.

    • wqaindia profile image

      Ashok Goyal 

      7 years ago from 448 Dalima Vihar Rajpura 140401 Punjab India

      EGT: Beyond imagination. Every parent has to pass through the testing times and it is never ending.

      I am not that equipped to write a Hub as beautifully as you have. Can you please venture to write a Hub with the Topic " Do you discriminate, Even God discriminates." as in real life parents have different level of love for their children, Teaches have different level of liking for their students and even God starts discriminating from the very birth. Birth is not in by choice.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Vinaya, I am in complete agreement with you! Too many times parents assume one child is always at fault, and that is just not good. Unfortunately, I am even guilty of this at times :(. Thanks for reading!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      I still remember the sibling rivalry from my childhood. It is natural, but sometimes it can be very problematic especially when parents supports one child over the other. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Cashmere, Thanks for reading. I hope your husband enjoys being pushed out of bed. I'm pretty sure my husband secretly likes it!

      Denise, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on fear. Those are very insightful. Hopefully, I'll remember them in the middle of the night when I'm exhausted and just want my 4 year old to be more like a rational adult who knows monsters don't exist! And I also love the "choke hold" photo :)

      Simoninikid, I always appreciate your encouragement. Maybe my husband and I should re-institute our little fighting game. I'm guessing he would be fine with that :) Thank you for reading and for commenting!

    • SimoniniKid profile image


      7 years ago from Beautiful Glen Ellyn, IL

      The concepts of unity against common enemies is terrific! It is one of the foundations of the all strong unions! Love your creative approaches to not only "kid fights" but to "parent fights" as well.

      The richness of your thoughts, concerns, love and diligence to raise wholesome children is SO evident in your article. You are not only a gifted writer but a blessing to your family!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Loved the advice, especially the insight about the fear factor. Fear is a natural part of human nature-an innate part of who we are. Getting past the fear is a process that requires maturity and rational, logical thinking. In the meantime, we must help our children cope with what frightens them in ways that they understand.

      I loved the video and photos. My favorite photo was of big sister doing the 'choke hold' on baby brother! lol I have many of those with my own children and grandkids.

      Lovely hub-rated UP/and all across, including funny. :) Sharing.

    • cashmere profile image


      7 years ago from India

      Very nice techniques. Specially like the common goal of pushing daddy out of bed. I think I'm going to employ it this weekend


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)