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10 Ways to Address Sibling Rivalry

Girls sledding-250x250It is so easy as a parent to get caught in the cross fire of sibling arguments.  As parents there are some simple guidelines we can follow to support our children to sort it out. As part of our weekly parenting tips series, here are our ’10 Ways to Address Sibling Rivalry’.

  1. Never take sides.  No matter what age they are or what the gap is, hear what both have to say first and then move onto the next step.
  2. Clarify what you understand to be the issue and tell them to take steps to sort it out.
  3. Give them a clear time line in which to do this – in the next 10 minutes, today, this week – whatever is appropriate.
  4. If they cannot manage to resolve the issue, support them to.  You are the facilitator of this issue, the mediator in a sense. Help your children identify the problem, to hear what each other think and, most importantly, feel and then ask them to offer solutions.
  5. If they cannot cooperate in this process offer them a consequence. Tell them if they cannot agree to cooperate and find a solution then such a consequence will happen for them both. Remember – don’t take sides.
  6. If and when they manage to resolve the issue, then praise them for doing this.  If necessary ask them what they have agreed and support them to succeed in carrying out this plan.
  7. If they can’t come up with a solution, sit them down and help them brainstorm what they can do to resolve the dispute or an ongoing issue. Get them to write down the plan if they are old enough to. Keep it very simple if they are very young.
  8. Reward children with positive feedback when you find them playing and interacting well with each other. Often we only notice when they are arguing.
  9. Always ensure children are safe in this process. Never leave a child at risk of harm from another. Talk with them about respect and ground rules in your family. Ensure there are no double standards in how you behave and how your children are allowed to behave.
  10. Although you may have to support a child to be safe you should still work with each child to empower them to speak up and voice what they need to.  You are not doing your child any favours by acting for them all the time.  These skills they learn at home with siblings are valuable life skills they can take with them in every aspect of life.  Always try to reflect on what you are teaching all your children; the ones that speak up and the ones that stay quiet or wait for you to intervene and fix things. Try not to be the “fix it” parent.  Children can resolve their own issues, they just need your support to learn the skills and gain the confidence.

Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Run a Family Meeting.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly. Coming soon:  10 Ways to Make Positive Parenting Changes.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic  on Monday 5 January from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook page. Join in and post your question.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email