No More Sibling Rivalry! Successful Parenting Secrets to Raising Siblings Who Get Along

No More Sibling Rivalry! Successful Parenting Secrets to Raising Siblings Who Get Along.

A must-read post for parents looking to raise siblings who get along and are friends.

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One of my primary goals as a parent is raising kids who get along with one another. My kids may all love crafts and creating, but they each have their own, distinct personality. Distinct personalities mean we get personality clashes, and those clashes can lead to sibling rivalry! Seeing kids fight is heartbreaking for any parent. Thankfully, I have some parenting secrets that make all the difference in raising siblings who get along.

How to Raise Kids Who Get Along

These time tested successful parenting tips for raising siblings who get along come from my own experience parenting. My parenting is inspired by my childhood as the fourth of ten siblings who all get along. It is also influenced by parenting books I have read on how to prevent sibling rivalry. I reference some of my favorites books about raising siblings at the end of this post.

Schedule family down time.

Spend time together as a family. It doesn’t matter what you do; it’s the time together that is important. I do recommend activities that allow space for talking and laughing. Activities where you are all engaged in the same activity but don’t have many opportunities to interact are much less effective. Going on walks, drawing, crafting, playing modified versions of chess and monopoly, and enjoying music together are favorites from our home.

Teach and model respect.

My children understand that they need to respect each others’ emotions. This is true even when those emotions don’t make sense to them (say, a sibling appears to be overreacting to a situation). Model this same respect when dealing with your children and their emotions.

Moderate disagreements only where absolutely necessary.

I’ve learned that my kids usually find solutions that are at least as fair as the ones I would come up with. This problem-solving process teaches them lessons in compromise and team work along the way. If we want our kids to get along, we need to give them a chance to figure out solutions on their own.

Focus on problem solving.

If you have to moderate a disagreement, focus on core facts and solving the problem. Don’t get distracted by who said or did what first. Be aware of the fact that some children are better than others at expressing opinions and describing situation. Focus on resolving the issue. Is conflict the only problem, or are they also tired or hungry? Have you as their parent given them the attention they need?

See children as individuals.

Don’t define children by birth order or perceived talents. Give them space to be themselves, and they’ll surprise you over and over again. Try not to categorize children or put them into boxes. This limits growth and prevents parents from getting to know their children, while fostering resentment.

Don’t let children prioritize objects over siblings.

My kids know that if they fight over something – be it a toy, movie, or computer game – they will lose the privilege of using that particular object. No object is more important than a human being.

Recognize nice things they do for one another.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way! Notice the small kindnesses your children do for one another.

Books to Read: Parenting Resources for Raising Siblings Who Get Along

Looking to learn more? Siblings Without Rivalry is my favorite book on this topic.

I also Laura Markham’s Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.

Big sister little sister

What are your best tips for preventing sibling rivalry and raising kids who get along? Please share in the comments below, or on my Facebook page. You can also tag me on Instagram. 

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

97 thoughts on “No More Sibling Rivalry! Successful Parenting Secrets to Raising Siblings Who Get Along”

  1. Great tips! At the moment we are teaching a new degree of the Matthew 18 principle. It’s such a great tangible way of handling conflict.

  2. Valerie @ Glittering Muffins

    These are great, thanks! It can also be applied to single child towards parents and others :)

  3. Really great list! This is very important to me too!!!

    I think my kids get along better than average and one little thing I do (not sure if it makes any difference) is make frequent comments like, “I love how you two are so nice to each other!”

  4. What a great list! I only have one child so far but these items are incredibly important and I’ll be saving this list for the future. Plus, teaching and modeling respect and treating your child as an individual are key to raising every child, no matter how many you have.

  5. You hit most of my major tips. I think it also helps them to get along better if they know they each will get time alone with a parent from time to time.

  6. I always admire reading your blog how your kids get along. Now I know some of the secrets to your success. Not that it will do me any good anyway as we don’t plan any more kids, but still…

  7. Elisa | blissfulE

    I love how you put your tips succinctly so we can all refer back to them. These are things we do, too, and they work so well! Something you haven’t explicitly listed but that fits within the framework above is asking this question, “have you asked nicely?” I find that often a child will complain to me first rather than simply asking nicely for what they want. And a huge percentage of the time, once they ask nicely, voila, they have what they wanted. Gradually my children are learning to skip the complain-to-mama step. :)

    1. This is soooooo true! Reinforcing communication between children is extremely important. 9 out of 10 times my children come to me before they have ever just talked with the other child. I have to prompt them to just communicate with each other- ask a question- tell the other what you like or dislike- explain to them how to “explain”. We make our children better people by reinforcing communication.

  8. Shannon Niebuhr

    I agree that even though we have just one kid, he needs to get along with his playmates better *and* with us. He is two, and we are already using a few of your methods, but I’m going to start applying them all.

    I especially like your suggestion: “Moderate disagreements only where absolutely necessary. I’ve learned that my kids usually find with solutions that are at least as fair as the ones I would come up with.” That one statement shows so much respect for the way kids think and solve problems themselves.

    Thank you for putting thought into this question. It’s important!

    1. I think that she can trust her kids conflict solving because she has been teaching them the tools all along. If your child is older you may need to give him some of these tools before you can can trust them.

  9. Except for a very select few items our 4 and 2 year old (one boy, one girl) know that gifts and items they receive are always to be shared and it’s been that way from the beginning. I am grateful that so far this has worked. Neither of our children have gone through a “mine” stage and thy happily share everything. We also ensure that most of their Christmas gifts, Easter baskets etc are addressed to both children. We’re doing our best to prevent raising children with “entitlement” issues.

    Thank you for your tips. I am sure these will come in handy as our children get older. I only hope that they will continue to get along as the year progress.

  10. Oh Maryanne, I just love this post. This topic is one that I am only beginning to explore with my sons (2.5 and 1). I totally agree with being hands off and trying not to intervene unless absolutely necessary. It freaks some people out but, like you, I believe our children can resolve conflict probably better than us in most situations. I try to have my older son practice his kind words and kind tone and to remind him not to use his body. I’ll have him say, “W, please don’t do X. It upsets me when you do X. Please play with Y.” Something along that vein. Also, you might be interested in a Montessori Peace Table (apologies if I am being repetitive) if you have not already implemented one.

  11. I just adore the photo of your two girls. This is a great post, with lots of fantastic tips and strategies for raising siblings who are also friends. I am trying so hard to make sure my two girls are close. Thanks so much for sharing this with Tuesday Tots!

  12. Great ones! I also like to encourage them doing nice things for each other just because. I have a stack of sticky notes that I’ve written, “I did it because I love you” that they can use when they secretly do something nice for no reason. Just yesterday my 6 year old made my 4 year old’s bed and put a stick on it. :)

  13. I have a friend who taught her children the idea “a bug and a wish”. Teaching them problem solving skills “it bugs me when you xxx, I wish you would xxx”.
    So when they come w a complaint, ask them if they have used their bug and a wish.

  14. This is an awesome article, I love it! Do you have any additional strategies you used for when the second child was an “infant” and the first was a toddler? I have an almost one year old and a newly three year old and we are struggling with the older sibling constantly being upset about the younger messing up his stuff, touching him, being too close to him, etc. Not to mention the older is emulating what the younger does – shreaking, baby talking, etc. It’s very hard to explain and have it sink in that the younger is just a baby and it’s almost impossible to keep them constantly playing/living independently. I appreciate any input!

    1. That can be a tough phase! Things that helped us included making a big deal out of the older sibling “teaching” the younger sibling, talking about how much the younger sibling adored the older sibling, and talking about all the cool “big kid” things the older sibling got to do that the younger one could not do. Sometimes helping the older sibling plan an activity for the younger sibling can help, too – they have ownership of it, so they are proud of the younger sibling’s participation instead of irritated. Hope some of this helps!

      1. Thank you! We are doing a few of these things but you have given me some great ideas of additional tactics – love the idea of creating an activity. Jack is all over playing teacher right now. Again, thank you so much!

  15. Thank you for sharing this with me.) I love it because it is such a clear and practical check list for conflict resolution. I love the idea of letting them resolve it. I need to let them do it more but also not prioritizing the object over the relationship. Thank you again.

  16. We have five kids and our best strategies are to keep them busy so when they have down time they make better use of it. When they go through disagreeable phases I put out a jar for them to put notes of nice things they have observed each other doing. It is amazing the difference in behaviour!

  17. “See children as individuals. Don’t define them by birth order or perceived talents. Give them space to be themselves, and they’ll surprise you over and over again.” I love this! Can you specifically describe how you go about it? Thanks!

    1. It’s something I try to think about all the time, but especially when I’m reacting to a child’s behavior. I always try to question if it’s the behavior I’m reacting to, or some idea I have in my head about the child. Does that make sense?

  18. Great post you have here!

    I think one of the key ways to have children get along and love each other is to expect that of them. I have seen too many moms say phrases like “well kids fight” or ” siblings don’t get along, it’s normal”. With that attitude it’s very difficult for a child to see that mean behavior towards a brother or sister isn’t acceptable or right.

    Another thing I did my entire childhood (8 kids) was after Halloween or Easter egg hunts my mother took all of the candy and divided it evenly between all the kids. Then we could trade with each other of we chose, but it wasn’t a competition to get all the candy for yourself. That tradition has continued with my kids now, there are times every once in a while when someone is upset by the arrangement but they get over it pretty quickly.

    1. I agree that setting the expectation that siblings will get along is key!

      And I love your tip about Halloween and Easter candy – excellent solution!

  19. Very interesting and useful. We’re also working on getting along since the day my youngest son came home.They seem to get along very well so far.I think spending time together as a family is crucial in building a loving relationship between siblings. Thank you !

    1. I agree, Mirela! I think that family time helps to establish the relationship as one that really matters!

  20. When my siblings and I were young, if we ever got in a big argument (which was rare) my mom would ground us from each other. It always ended up being the worst possible punishment and I think it taught us that our relationships with each other were much, much more important than whatever it was we were disagreeing on. More than 20 years later my 4 siblings and I are still the best of friends.

    1. I love your mom’s approach! The central message that kids need to understand, I feel, is that their siblings and that relationship is worth more than any argument!

    2. Amanda, How did your mom ground you from one another? Could you give me some examples on how she did that?
      Thanks!
      Laurel

  21. I think you nailed it when you said focus on solving the problem instead of who said what or who had what toy first. These are all great tips! I only have one child but if I ever plan to expand, I would love for my kids to get along (most of the time!).

  22. Great post and some great comments too.

    I have twin sons who are now 17 and a 13 year old daughter, all of whom are very different personalities. I think it’s important to mention that, as they get older, time apart is crucial to their relationships with one another.

    Family time continues to be important but I’ve always found that my three get on better with one another when they’ve had regular time apart. They need time with friends, time alone and, most importantly, one-on-one time with each parent. It needs scheduling and can be hard to manage but it’s soooo important.

    Even a short trip to the shops or something – just you and one child – is good. Special outings which each child chooses is better. These work best if they are once a month. A weekend away somewhere with Mum or Dad is even better.

    The key is that you get to focus on one child and to make him or her feel special. It works wonders for everyone concerned.

    1. Thanks for your insight on older kids! I do find that having some one-on-one time with parents is helpful even for young children, but I can see how it could get even more critical as kids get older.

  23. I have two daughters who are close in age. They are both now in college and always got along. From the time they were very young, I told them to always take each other’s side – even if it’s against me or their father. Because, one day, I’ll be gone, their dad will be gone, friends come and go, but they’ll be left with each other. So always have each other’s back. They always have.

  24. When my son hurts his little sister I put all my focus on her and none on him. This doesn’t give him negative attention and it doesn’t make her hate him for me putting attention on him when it all needs to be directed to her.
    I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is they turn their attention on to the child who did the hurting. This creates a lot of anger from the child who got hurt and gives all the negative(but wanted) attention to the child who did the hurting.
    I have to honestly say, my children hardly ever fight. My son occasionally hurts his sister, but he has learned from an early age that it gets him no where and she ends up getting all the attention anyway.
    This is by far one of the biggest reasons why my children truly do love each other.

    1. I’m sure you are right. Someone gave me that advice when my first two were toddlers, and it has served me well. I’m so glad you brought it up in the comments for this post!

  25. I had to add

    Empathy begets Empathy

    Simply said, but so profound. If we show our children the empathy they need, even if it for a tiny scrap or something we feel is so minour, they take this away with them in life every where they go.

  26. This is great. I think there are some scenarios where one sibling is bullying the other and you do have to take a side and make it stop…

  27. I WOULD LOVE ANY HELP MY KIDS ARE 3, 9, & 12. MY 12 YEAR OLD WILL NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE 9 YR OLD. THIS HAS CAUSED MANY DIVISIONS AND LIMITS OUR GOING OUT WITH OTHER FAMILIES DUE TO THE ATTITUDES.

    1. Hi Alicia,

      I passed your question on via my facebook page, and got some nice replies:
      https://www.facebook.com/mamasmilesblog/posts/451258334906674

      And this idea from a friend:

      “One thing we do with our 10 and 8 year old is celebrate “Brothers Day”. We made it up to coincide with our vacations. We celebrate them, their friendship, and plan a fun kid friendly day.”

      And this link (sent on from another friend) from parenting expert Amy McCreedy: http://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/blog

      Hope some of this helps!

      1. Thank you for that second link. It led me to a page about sibling rivalry between twins which is exactly what our biggest issue is. Your post has been very helpful and I loved the comments even more.

  28. I agree with the tips you’ve given! My kids (ages 7 & 11, girl & boy) get along really well too. I’ve followed the same principles and they really work! I also agree with Ann who spoke about positively reinforcing how much she loves it when they get along well. My kids know that is my expectation and for the majority of the time they live up to it. I’ve given them really sad stories of how my sister and I were raised to compete and fought all the time and how awful that was. I think another thing that works well is emphasizing how important it is to take turns and share – even when they want to play different things; first they play one person’s game, then they play the other. I always make sure to praise that and especially the person who gives in first. My kids also know that if the younger one screams, they fight or something breaks, BOTH kids go in time out…that it takes 2 to tango!

    1. You are so right about it taking two to tango (or fight!) And I think having the expectation that kids will be friends is a HUGE step towards their becoming – and staying – friends for life!

  29. I only have 1 kiddo, but I babysit and I teach preschool — so these tips are wonderful for me too! Your list is straight, to the point, and packs a big punch. Thanks for sharing! :)

  30. There are all fantastic tips. I do not have any kids yet, but am hoping to start that part of my life soon.
    Speaking from the “child’s” perspective here…my younger sister and I are 24 and 18 now and continue to be as close as ever. We have been extremely close from a very young age. Another thing that I think helped us be as close as we are is that my parents encouraged us to talk to eachother about anything we had on our mind, not just talking through conflicts/solutions, but about how our day went, or about a book we read at school, or the new friend we made that day. This has kept the communication lines open between us and we continue to talk to eachother about everything and feel comfortable doing so because we know eachother better than anyone else. It makes me so happy to hear of other siblings that get along because there is nothing better than having that bond with someone. :)

    1. Great advice, Kira! Thanks for sharing the “child’s” perspective! I love that your parents emphasized talking about everything, not just conflicts and solutions.

  31. I am a twin and absolutely ADORE my sister. One of the things I think my mom did that helped with our relationship was to try to keep us equal. It was even to little things like sitting in the front seat with turns or picking out what we were going to have for dinner. She really reinforced that we were equally loved and pretty and smart and talented etc (you know moms)but that it could be in different ways. We are 22 and live together (mostly)in harmony:)

  32. I have three little girls who get along most of the time. They are all extremely different. I try my best never to compare them. I don’t want other people comparing them either. This past school year, I requested that my second daughter NOT get the same teacher as my oldest. Also, I don’t want to hear any tattling. I tell them they should never tattle on your sister unless its really important and their sister could get hurt. Your sister is your best friend and you should always have their back.

    1. I never would have thought to request different teachers for different kids, but I can see how that would eliminate a LOT of academic comparing! Great idea.

  33. Hi, I an Nana to two wonderful girls. They are quite young yet and it’s obvious that they love each other. The oldest is very territorial and lays claim to most of the toys, books etc. It’s very difficult to observe and try to do something about it. Any tips?

    1. We’ve had this same problem, off and on. The thing that has helped the most here has been to designate a bin where the oldest can store “her” things, and anything that doesn’t fit has to be shared. So, as she acquires new things (which her younger siblings are typically very happy to give her) she has to take something out and make it a toy for everyone for the new object to fit. Not perfect, and I would love to hear other solutions, but it’s the best solution I’ve found so far!

  34. Came across this on pinterest and found myself super disappointed. Every single thing on this list is something that my family has strongly in place, including the individual time with parents addendum that was added by another commenter. My kids still continue to hate each other. It’s generally one on the outside of two, whether that one is the middle boy against his older sister and younger brother, or the older sister on the outside against the two younger boys… it changes from time to time. We’ve even gone so far as to put them in both individual and family counseling. I dont know what to do. I’m afraid I just have kids that will never get along.

    1. I have 9, 10, 13 – all girls. 10 yr old is always involved in any argument or problem. I feel like a terrible mom sometimes because when she spends the night at a friend’s house, our hone is peaceful. I have always encouraged them to get along, lookout for one another, share, etc. She tries to be so hurtful. She often says “I hate you” & “Nobody likes you” to her younger sister. She tries to embarrass her sisters publicly or privately whenever possible. She doesn’t act the same way to her friends. She is actually quite kind and considerate with them. I am at my wits end.

      1. There were six girls in my family, but I remember there being kind of a tough relationship between me, the sister directly older than me, and the sister directly younger than me sometimes. It felt like the sister above me adored the sister who was younger than me, and I got jealous because, before that sister showed up, the older sister and I had been inseparable. I wonder if it’s possible that is going on with your middle girl, sometimes?

        I don’t remember my mom doing anything to intervene (with ten children in total, I’m not even sure she was aware of the issue), but all three of us are great friends as adults.

  35. Great tips and a great website. I like your ideas for family time,something that’s hard to get in with the hubby. I like to do many of the activities with kids.

  36. Great tips! Something that is working well for us is Everytime someone in the family does something to hurt or be disrespectful or to fight they then have to do something nice for that person. If my son takes a toy from his sister and makes her cry instead of being forced to say he is sorry he chooses something to do to actually show he is sorry. He will make her a snack or get her a drink etc. this takes the fighting and yelling out and instead of feeling like Hes being punished he gets to be the knight. I think this will create a stronger bond rather then resentment. I hope as they get older it will help their relationships with each other and other people as a step to problem solving their issues. I’m going to write a little post about my thoughts on this on my own blog soon.

  37. I have two grown daughters who are VERY different people but get along pretty well. I agree with your suggestion to intervene only when absolutely necessary. When my girls were in elementary school and had a conflict which they couldn’t resolve, I gave them the option of “hiring” me as a mediator. I explained that a mediator heard both sides of the story then decided on path to resolve the problem and both parties had to agree to abide by the decision. They each had to pay me (25 cents when they were younger and the cost went up as they got older) for my services. It’s amazing how quickly they were able to find a solution (or just agree to disagree) when their limited funds were on the line.

  38. It definitely gets harder as they get older and friends become more important to them. When my daughters (8 and 10) fight, sometimes rather than a punishment, they have to say 5 things they love about each other. That helps to reset the tone.

  39. These all sound great but I’m raising 7 teenagers how can I get them to get along cuz my house feels like a battle zone and everyone is competing and I feel lost please help I need advise

    1. I’m sorry, Misty! Teenagers are hard, and I haven’t gone there, yet. I know that family road trips were something that brought my siblings and I together growing up.

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