1. Parenting

Stop Sibling Rivalry

10 Strategies to Curb the Sibling Spats

By

A picture of a brother and sister fighting

Sibling rivalry affects the whole family.

Photo © Stockbyte / Getty Images
Sibling rivalry is frustrating for kids and their parents. Keep the peace in your house and raise siblings who have a strong bond.

1. Help Your Kids Express Their Feelings

Part of the frustration that leads to sibling rivalry is that kids often have trouble expressing their feelings. If someone picked up your jacket, you wouldn't start screaming and crying that your stuff had been touched. To a child, though, that's his possession and the reaction is often an overreaction.

Sometimes you have to be each child's spokesperson to help him understand how to express his emotions and diffuse the situation at the same time. "You're upset because your brother took your books out of your room."

Those feelings may be instantly fixed when you help your child put the right words on the emotions they're experiencing. If not, offer a solution. "We can pick the books up together and put them back on the shelf. Then, I'll read whichever book you want to you and your brother."

2. Don't Compare

"Look how well your sister is eating her dinner," you might say. "Your brother got all of his chores done on time." It's easy to absent-mindedly make comments about one of your children's actions that come out as comparisons of one child to another. Siblings can be role models to each other but pointing out how well one has done something over the other just adds fuel to the sibling rivalry fire.

3. Set Aside One-on-One Time

Family time is extremely important but so is one-on-one time with your kids. Make a point to set aside time for each one of your children.

It can be as little as 30 minutes playing a game or reading books. Giving individual attention to each one of your children strengthens your bond with all of them.

4. Try to See Both Sides

Sometimes you have to be Switzerland to stop sibling rivalry. If your school-age child starts screaming at your toddler for taking his toys, you may be tempted to jump in and protect your toddler who's so much smaller.

Try to see both sides of the situation. Your toddler is just curious about the shiny toy helicopter. But to your school-age child, this is an invasion of his stuff from the household's newbie. Instead of defending the toddler's actions and risk hurting your older child's feelings because he doesn't think you're on his side, play devil's advocate.

Explain to your school-age child that the toddler doesn't yet understand the rules and that it will take time for her to learn about sharing and respecting others. Give your toddler a different toy to play with and remove the other toy from the room.

5. Choose Your Battles

If you play kid police constantly, you'll never get anything accomplished. Set some ground rules for yourself.

Decide when you'll step in and when you won't. If siblings are squabbling over where they'll park their cars in the playroom, let them figure it out. But if the simple spat escalates into a shouting match, set them on the right path to resolving the issue.

6. Encourage Them to Work It Out on Their Own

While learning to choose your battles, you can also encourage children to work out the issues on their own too. Sometimes this requires you to explain in kid terms what each child wants out of the situation and give them a nudge to work it out with your words.

"Jenny wants to watch TV. Caleb wants to play his Wii racing game. You've only got 30 minutes before bed."

Instead of one kid winning, they both can with 15 minutes of TV time and 15 minutes of video game time. Soon, your children will learn to work together to solve the problem and come up with a compromise.

7. Praise the Peace

The alarm bells go off when the kids aren't getting along. One or more will scream, cry or make it clear that things aren't going well.

In those times when your children are sharing, playing nicely or helping each other, take notice and give them praise. Be specific about what you like to see in the situation. "Mommy loves how you two are sharing your dolls for your fun tea party," sends the message to them more clearly than "Good job girls."

8. Post the Rules

No hitting, shoving, screaming and throwing are a few simple rules you can put in place to stop sibling rivalry. Make sure the rules are understood and even post them where the kids can see them.

Conflict will undoubtedly arise but remind the kids of the rules. Even walk them over to where the rules are posted to show them if you need to. If breaking the rules has consequences, such as a time out, let them know that too.

9. Make Some Toys Off Limits to Siblings

We always push for our kids to share but there's nothing wrong with making a few of each child's possessions off limits to siblings. Let him choose about three items only he can play with or use.

The limits children set should be within reason, of course. Your son shouldn't be able to call the TV as his own so his little sister can't watch.

But setting limits on certain items makes sense and can give your kids a sense of having their own stuff while understanding they share everything else. For example, an older child may not want his younger siblings to play with his breakable model airplanes. A younger child may deem his favorite teddy bear off limits to his older siblings.

10. Give Kids Alone Time

It's easier on mom if everyone's in the same room playing together. Alone time is good for your children too. Allow them to play in their rooms with their own toys if they're older. Younger children can play solo while you sit on the other side of the room and supervise.

We want our children to play well together but independent play is beneficial for the whole family. It will also help them learn to appreciate that special time when they're all playing together.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.