Building Good Sibling Relationships

By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


As a child, my brother and I would fight a lot.    He was younger and I always found myself trying to mother him…and believe me, he needed it!     My father would say, “One day, you two will get along.”  I never thought that day would come; now as adults we get along great, so my Dad was right!    As a big sister, I often felt that since I was older and wiser, I was always right.  I think siblings may struggle because of the need to want each other’s attention or to compete with one another.    At one moment, siblings are best friends and the next moment, rivals.    This can get frustrating for all involved.  I came across a list generated from experienced parents on how to handle sibling situations.  I am uncertain who the authors are, but these tips are still a great resource worth sharing.

Start Young:

From the beginning, let children know what they are expected to treat each other fairly.  Let your kids know that hurting each other is not okay.

Take 30 seconds to stop, look and listen:

This definitely helps you get a better idea of what kids are fighting over.  Take the next 30 seconds to think about how you should respond to the situation.  Thirty seconds doesn’t seem like very long, but you will be amazed at how it helps you to keep your cool and take charge in an effective way.

It is OK to treat children differently:

The important thing is not to devalue one child over the other.  Focus on the positives of each child’s personality and interests.

Think cooperation instead of competition:

For example, rather than having children race each other to pick up toys, set a timer and have them race together to beat the clock.  Try to find at least one thing every day that kids can work together to accomplish.

Teach your children what to do when they are angry:

Walk away from the situation, count to ten, go hug a stuffed animal, or ask an adult for help.

Consult with children:

When older children continue to fight, sit down with them and ask their advice.  Sometimes kids can come up with very good suggestions for resolving a persistent problem.

Help children to problem solve:

Take the time to help them discuss the problem, brainstorm solutions, and try to work things out.  The time you invest early on will save a great deal of time years later because they will become so good at it, they will be able to solve most problems themselves.

Remember to thank your children for getting along:

“It’s great to see you two working together to rake leaves” or “Thanks for helping your sister pick up her toys.”  Remember also to remind your children to thank each other. “ I bet Mary would feel good if she heard a thank you for helping you set the table.”

Have regular rules and routines so children know what to expect:

Children should know that they are always expected to clean up their toys before bedtime or feed the pet right before dinner.  If parents are consistent, kids have a better idea about what is needed from them in everyday family life.

Develop a family motto or slogan:

Hearing a family motto helps small children feel the security of belonging to a strong family.  Say your motto during everyday routine times such as eating, dinner, and say it to children when conflict arises.

Look for opportunities for children to help each other:

Every very young child can bring diapers, help feed the baby, or push the stroller.  Make at least one weekly chore a team effort.  Setting the table, feeding the birds, or emptying the dishwasher is good jobs for leaning how to work together.

Siblings have a unique relationship.  It is important to foster positive sibling interactions and to help them to enjoy each other!    “The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.”  –  Garrison Keillor

Here are some great resources/websites to help with those sibling relationships:

The Sibling Relationship: Challenging But Powerful

Sibling Relationships

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

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