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How to Handle Sibling Conflicts

My sister is 15 months younger than I am, and although we had our moments of getting along like the young girls you often saw sweetly passing the syrup to one another in pancake commercials, our more typical interactions involved some sort of screaming, hairbrush throwing, name calling, or all of the above.  Our weary mother was consistent in trying to make sure we treated each other with respect, and insisted that someday we would be the best of friends, but I could tell that we really wore her down.  When I became a mother of two, I prided myself that my boys seemed to generally respect each other and get along flawlessly – oh, what a parenting professional I thought I was – at least until my youngest realized he could take toys from my oldest, and my oldest thought it was a fun game to try to convince my youngest to give up the toys with which he was playing.  I conceded that I was not the parenting pro that I thought I was, but I was also relieved to know that sibling conflicts were quite normal, and could be managed in such a way that it would not have to drain every ounce of energy I had.

In the post “Sibling Conflicts: Guest Post Solutions from Lisa Sunbury” on the website “The Twin Coach,” guest Lisa Sunbury responds to a parent’s questions regarding sibling conflict and gives suggestions as to how to support both children in their learning while staying neutral.  Additionally, she suggests preventative measures to (hopefully) avoid getting into a full-blown sibling issue in the first place.  The post itself goes into greater detail, but Ms. Sunbury’s suggestions are as follows:

  1. Try to envision yourself as a coach, as opposed to a referee.
  2. When you have to be otherwise occupied, try to involve the children in the task at hand, in your sight, or suggest they play separately for a bit.
  3. When siblings begin to struggle with each other, stay with them for as long as it takes, and keep gently turning them back to each other, resisting the impulse to solve the problem for them.
  4. When the kids have been fighting all day, be honest with them about your limits as well.  Perhaps suggest that they play separately, using neutral and non-blaming language.
  5. Set rules and teach children about respecting boundaries.  For example, the parent in the article has a rule that anyone can play with toys that are in the playroom, and whoever is playing with it first gets to play with it.  If there are special toys, they should remain in their room, unless they feel like sharing it with their sibling.
  6. Pay attention to your behavior, as this shapes what they learn.  If the children have learned that when they disagree, they get a lot of attention or big reactions from adults, or that adults will solve their problems for them, they will continue to act in that way.
  7. Set up activities and games that both siblings can enjoy together – each at their own age and ability level.  Some ideas are blocks, dance party, hide and seek, scavenger hunt, sand box play, play dough, water play, chalk art, building forts, painting murals, obstacle course, and board games.
  8. Read to your children, or have them read, books with themes of family, friendship, and feelings, as well as tell stories and do activities that help your older child understand the younger child’s point of view.

Ms. Sunbury certainly provides some solid suggestions for coaching children through, or even helping to prevent, sibling conflicts.  For even more parenting help, have your children take the Kidtelligent assessment!  This unique assessment not only gives you indispensable insight into your children’s unique personality, it also offers parenting suggestions and tips based on your children’s distinctive personality traits, including tips on how to deal with tough parenting issues.  To learn more about Kidtelligent, go to, and follow us on Facebook at

Sarah is a guest blogger for Kidtelligent.  She is a soccer-playing, travel-loving, poetry-writing wife to a “go-getter” husband and mother to two high-spirited, sweet, and enthusiastic boys.  Her mother was absolutely right (like always) – her sister is now her best friend!