Sibling rivalry – Part 2

Last month, I gave you some strategies for resolving sibling conflict and rivalry. It was such a big topic that I had to split it into two parts. Here is Part 2 …

  • Role model for your kids what relationship repair looks like.  If you have roused on the kids and you feel like you went too far, lost your cool, got it wrong, or responded from your own stuff rather than being logical and reasonable, you can apologise to your kids for your behaviour. You can talk about what you said or did that was mistaken and what you think you could have done better. This is good modelling. Just never make your kids responsible for YOUR feelings and behaviour (own them), never make your kids responsible for making you feel better, and never ever beg for their forgiveness.
  • Do the “kid swap” on a regular basis. When your kids have their friends over they are usually at their best behaviour. When you send your kids off to someone else’s house to play, they are usually on their best behaviour. I really like the kid swap, and will have up to 6 boys in my tiny little house on a regular basis. It is wonderful to see how well the children can get along.
  • As Dr Laura Markham says “love each one the best”. This is different to treating them all the same. As your children get older it becomes too hard to treat them all the same. One will have a birthday party invite and the others will not. That’s life – there is very little equity or sameness. However, be careful that you speak positively about each of your children and give each of them your love, care and attention. A work colleague of mine years ago told me that growing up she thought she was Mum’s “special one”. She was one of eight children. One day at lunch, sitting around the table with her adult siblings, they each said they thought they were the special one, the one that Mum loved the best. I can almost guarantee that Mum did not spend hours with each of her eight children each day. She demonstrated her love and care to each child in the quality of the small interactions throughout the day, each and every day.
  • Have house rules – not because the kids are going to follow them 100% of the time, but because rules communicate your expectations for their behaviour. State them in a positive way, so that the kids know what to do rather than what not to do. So, instead of saying “no hitting:  say “we keep our hands and feet to ourselves”. Have a family meeting once per week, and allow the children to have their own say about what is working for them and what is not.
  • When children are fighting over the computer, TV, X-box, etc, the logical consequence is to switch it off for five minutes. When they come back to the activity at the end of the five minutes, remind them that if they fight over it again, it will go away for 10 minutes. Increase the time by five minutes each time.  Make sure you apply the logical consequence immediately and consistently. Follow through with what you say you will do. Switching it off for short periods gives your kids the chance to get it right. When you’ve got to the stage where you have switched the machine off for a half hour, let the kids know that it has  gone away for the day and they can try again tomorrow.
  • Kids fighting in the car? Pull over and have a five minute Quiet Time. It’s too dangerous to drive whilst the kids are carrying on in the back.
  • You can use reflective listening to sort out a stoush between siblings by reflecting what they are saying and how they are feeling. Don’t storm in and ask the two most stupid questions that parents ask – “Who started it?”  and  “What happened?”  You’ll never get a straight answer, you will be forced to take sides, and you may get it wrong, setting the scene for further resentment and conflict . Dr Laura Markham demonstrates a great way to resolve children’s disagreements at

That’s it for this month. Wishing you peaceful sibling interactions this holiday season.


Narelle Smith

.hold the vision.




Categories: Managing Mistaken Behaviour


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