5 Ways to Handle Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is inevitable whether you have 2 kids or 8 kids like Mighty Mommy. That's why it's crucial to implement these 5 tips in your home, to encourage more kindness and less competition.

Cheryl Butler,
February 9, 2014
Episode #267

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Tip #3:  Set Ground Rules for Acceptable Behavior in Your Home

Years ago, we set up a set of ground rules for acceptable behavior in our home and called them “The Butler Bill of Rights.”  (My kids would never admit this in public, but it was one of the best things we implemented to keep the peace amongst 8 children who are all so close in age!) 

Here are the 10 ground rules that we have used for over a decade now.  My biggest succesess come when I don’t lecture. When my kids hear a “tone” in my voice that a lecture is coming, they tune right out. So a pleasant yet firm approach goes over much better:

  1. No trying to pit Mom and Dad against one another when a problem occurs.

  2. Family business stays at home.

  3. In a conflict, no hurting (hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting.) is ever allowed.

  4. No name-calling or personal insults about someone’s physical appearance.

  5. No tattling unless someone is in danger.

  6. If the kids fight over a toy, the toy goes into time-out.

  7. Any child who demands to be first, will go last.

  8. No making fun of a child who is being punished, or you will also be punished.

  9. No fighting in the car, or we will pull over and stop until all is calm again.  (I still use this rule even with my teenage kids!)

  10. If borrowing is a problem, have the child who borrows something from a brother or sister put up collateral—a possession that will be returned only when the borrowed item is returned.  (This is particularly effective now that they all own iPods, smartphones, and other pricey gadgets).

Tip #4:  Don’t Compare

Remember that all children are created equal, but not all children are the same. Recognize and praise each child's individual skills, strengths, and accomplishments without implying that one child is somehow better.  It’s not helpful to make a remark such as “Why can’t you be an A student like your sister?” Try not to take sides and favor one child over the other. Get them settled and calm first, then ask questions about what happened before dispensing discipline.

Being fair is very important, but it is not the same as being equal. Older and younger children may have different privileges due to their age, but if children understand that this inequality is because one child is older or has more responsibilities, they will see this as fair.  Even if you did try to treat your children equally, there will still be times when they  feel as if they’re not getting a fair share of attention or responsiveness from you. Expect this and be prepared to explain the decisions you have made. Reassure your kids that you do your best to meet each of their unique needs.

In our large family of 10, I try to plan activities that we can all participate in together as a family, such as bowling, ice skating, and game nights.  By letting my kids have fun experiences together, it helps build a family foundation for when conflict does arise and it gives us all nice memories to have as the kids get older and start leaving for college.

Tip #5: Commit to One on One Time with Each Child

Just as planning family outings is important, having one on one time with each of your children is equally essential.  Sibling rivalry is often a result of kids vying for our individual attention.  In our household, I try and schedule this sacred time with each of my kids on the calendar so it doesn’t get forgotten when we get busy with our other commitments. 

Impromptu one on one time is also important and sometimes makes for even more of a special outing than when it was planned.  Just yesterday I took my 8-year-old to the dentist and afterwards we had an extra hour before we had to be home to get dinner started so I took her to the mall to look for Valentine's Day decorations for her bedroom.  She beamed when she got home and shared her new goodies with her older sister and brothers and when I had to take two of my older kids to their sports practices that same evening, she was much more accepting of their schedule because she had just had alone time with Mom!

What strategies work for you in keeping the peace between your children?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.  Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Sibling rivalry will always be a part of parenting, but when you can teach them how to co-exist and treat each other with respect, they will grow up viewing their siblings as friends for life, rather than adversaries.  Enjoy your family and until next time………….Happy Parenting!


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