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How Encourage Sibling Friendship, Not Rivalry

Updated on March 22, 2015
Siblings getting along can make family life peaceful.
Siblings getting along can make family life peaceful.

Brothers and sisters share a relationship that can be both stormy and beneficial. This article looks closely at what a parent can do to limit the rivalry and help siblings live peacefully together and foster the bonds of friendship between them.

There will probably always be fighting to some extent between siblings, at least while they are under the same roof, but there are clear cut methods for a parent to follow to avoid fanning the fire of competition and anger between their children.

Interview With Author Michael Grose

Sibling rivalry can make family life stressful day after day.
Sibling rivalry can make family life stressful day after day.

The Basics for Minimizing Sibling Rivalry

You may have imagined that your children would be the best of friends only to discover over time that they spend most of their time competing with each other for your attention. The best way to curtail this behavior is to avoid comparing them and using great care when praising each child for their accomplishments.

Don't Compare: This may seem like an easy task. You may even be sure that you don't ever make comparisons. The simplest comparison such as "Why won't you eat your broccoli? Your brother finished all of his," can spark the flames or rivalry in your children. Whatever you need to say to your child can be said directly, without including a reference to a sibling.

Labels: We all know that labels are damaging. We are labeled at a very young age by teachers and parents as the smart one, the class clown, the social butterfly. These labels make the "smart one" feel ugly and the pretty one" feel dumb. Avoid labeling. Let your children surprise you! Think about how you were labeled as a kid. Do you remember how that effected you? It is quite possible that one person saying that you were logical but not creative (or some other variation) could have effected some of the major choices you made for your life.

What about hurtful behavior?

Many experts say that you should stay out of it and let your children work things out. I agree, but only to an extent. If one child is hurting another emotionally or physically, it needs to be stopped. Stop the activity in an indifferent manner (don't take sides). Keep your cool. Don't add fuel to the sibling fire or even ask what happened. If one child attacks another, attend to the hurt child immediately. .

Reflect their feelings back to them by observing and stating what you see.

  • "You are really frustrated."
  • "A comment like that can really make you mad, huh?"
  • "You don't like when I spend time with your sister."

Children need to have their feelings acknowledged. Help them find a positive solution for the issue and allow them to express their negative feelings in an acceptable way with words.

Praise: Children will often view praise of a sibling as a "put-down" of themselves. Save your comments of praise for a private moment with your child. You can still make observations and describe what your child has accomplished; such as "You practiced so hard for that game" or "you must feel so good about winning."

Parents can help siblings learn to get along by not comparing them to each other.
Parents can help siblings learn to get along by not comparing them to each other.

Sibling Love

Nurturing a friendship between your children is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Recognizing the role that we as parents play in our children's rivalry is essential to their healthy relationship with each other. Letting them know that you couldn't possibly have a favorite child, that you love them all - not equally- but fully and uniquely will give them confidence and security in their relationship with you.

Brothers and sisters can be best friends (or at the very least, peaceful roommates) making family life more enjoyable and fulfilling for all members. If you are now experiencing the stress of constant fighting in your home, there is hope! You can make it better. It may not be easy and your children will likely still argue on occasion, but it is possible for them to have some fun along the way. Someday, you may even catch them snuggled up together.


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