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Sibling Rivalry Part 3 of 3

For a quick review of Part 1 on Sibling Rivalry
For a quick review of Part 2 on Sibling Rivalry


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Sibling Rivalry

The Big Book of Parenting Solutions

by Michele Borba Ed. D


Red Flags

Fighting words and actions between brothers and sisters; resentment and competition; constant or intense intermittent friction and hurt feelings; family disharmony due to constant sibling bickering.
STEP 3. Rapid Response

  • Stay neutral. Most research finds that the more involved you get in your kids’ tiffs, the more likely they are to engage in sibling rivalry. Siblings need to learn how to work out problems on their own. So intervene before an argument escales. If the conflict does get heated, stay neutral and make suggestions only when your kids seem stuck.
  • Find time alone for each child. Depending on your schedule, set aside blocks of time when each of your children can have your exclusive attention. While the other siblings are gone or another adult watches them, take turns taking each of the children on special outings, such as shopping, seeing a movie, or getting ice cream.
  • Let each kid tell the story. In the case of the hurt feelings or a battle, ask each kid to take turns explaining what happened. Doing so helps each child (especially a younger or less verbal one) feel that he has been heard. As each child speaks ask the other sibling to focus on him and really listen. No interrupting is allowed, and everyone gets a turn. You might need to set a timer for “equal talking time.” When the sibling is finished, briefly restate his view to show you do understand. You might then ask, “What can you do to solve this problem?” Hint: Don’t ask “What happened?” or “Who started it?” You’ll only get a one sided version, which can escalate the conflict even further.
  • Anticipate and distract. when you see their tempers rising or one kid’s patience maxed, it’s time to use the “distract or separate” method: “Let’s get out the Monopoly game” “how about a Popsicle?” “How about you two take a break from each other for five minutes?” Just use this strategy before their conflict has escalated to the point of no return.


The Five Simple House Rules to Curb Sibling Bickering

Here are five house rules to curb sibling tiffs. Each rule must be enforced consistently for results.

1. No Yelling. Family members must use calm voices only – no yelling allowed. If talks get heated, anyone can make a “time-out” hand sign hinting that he needs to cool down.

2. No taking without asking. Permission of the owner must be granted before borrowing, using, or taking property. (This is a major cause of sibling conflict, especially with tweens.)

3. No hurtful behaviors. Hitting, name-calling, and hurtful behaviors are never allowed and will result in a consequence (time-out for a younger child; loss of a privilege for an older one).

4. No involvement without evidence. Get involved only if you actually saw or heard the conflict. If your kids seek your help with no evidence, suggest that they use Rock, Paper, Scissors. It keeps you neutral, and your kids just might adopt the strategy for themselves.

5. No Tattling. This works wonders in curbing sibling resentment with younger kids: “unless you tell me something to keep your brother out of trouble or from being hurt, I won’t listen.”