Helping Siblings Get Along

If you have more than one child, you're bound to have some sibling rivalry. It's very, very hard for children to have to share us. In fact, when a younger sibling is born, virtually all children worry that they aren't good enough -- why else would their parents have gotten a newer, younger, model?

In addition to sibling rivalry, kids can have personality clashes, or clashes because they're different ages and want different things --or because they're close in age and want the same things!

Finally, like other humans who live together, even the most loving siblings have bad days and conflicts. And kids don't have the perspective to know it's not necessarily the other person's fault, or the skills to work out differences.

But your children can be friends for life, and your parenting can prevent and even transform sibling tensions. How?

  In this Section

Siblings 101  

If you have more than one child, you're bound to have some sibling rivalry. It's very, very hard for children to have to share us. In fact, when a younger sibling is born, virtually all children worry that they aren't good enough -- why else would their parents have gotten a newer, younger, model?

10 Tips to Foster a Great Sibling Relationship From the Start  

When you introduce a new baby into your family, you rock the world of the older brother or sister. You can expect some grief and anger, as your child adjusts to the new reality. Luckily, there are things you as the parent can do every day to help your children's relationship flourish, so sibling love trumps sibling jealousy.

5 Ways to Help Children Develop Emotional Intelligence Skills Every Day  

How do children learn social and emotional intelligence skills? Practice, practice, practice. Parents have to explain, model, and repeat themselves, over and over. It can seem endless. But there are ways to help children learn faster, by taking advantage of the problems that come up in every family on a daily basis. Next time there's a problem, think of it as a teachable moment.

Coaching Siblings to Communicate Needs and FeelingsS 

Conflict is part of every human relationship, because every relationship has two people with different needs and perspectives. Our job as parents is to teach our children to manage that conflict in ways that bring them closer. Here are some scripts to help you learn to de-fuse those situations when tension starts to build.

How to Help Each Child with Big Emotions  

There will inevitably be times when you’re the only adult present, you have more than one child in your care, and both children really need you at once, or one child needs your full attention for ten minutes but you can’t focus on him because the other child is there. What can you do?

How To Intervene In a Sibling Fight  

Mom's making dinner when she hears loud voices...and a crash! What should she do?

When Your 3 Year Old Hits the Baby  

Most kids can't cope with their complex emotions about the new baby -- usually a combination of protectiveness and the desire to flush the baby down the toilet -- and feel guilty. Over time, they develop a relationship with their sibling, but resentment often lurks below the surface, looking for expression.

How To Prevent Sibling Fighting  

You can't prevent all sibling fights. In fact, you wouldn't want to. Conflict is a part of every human relationship, and kids learn from fighting with each other how to express their needs and wants, respectfully set boundaries on the behavior or others, and problem-solve to find solutions that work for both people. But you can reduce fighting, and make the fighting that does occur more civil. Here's how.

Should you make your child apologize?  

After there's been a falling out between siblings, most parents insist that their children apologize to each other. But forcing children to apologize may be teaching all the wrong lessons, and we might want to re-think the whole practice. Here's what to do instead.

Bickering in the Backseat: How to Cope on the Way to School  

It’s finally the first day of school. Your children are so excited, they took forever to fall asleep last night. Their excitement is tinged with nervousness, naturally. And who better to take it out on than their brother or sister, sitting next to them in the back seat?


Birth Order

Most parents notice that their children's birth order has an impact on each child. Even if parents try very hard not to give the oldest special privileges and the youngest more attention, kids often perceive themselves as having gotten the short end of the stick because they aren’t the oldest, or the youngest. 

However, most researchers now believe that children’s inherited temperament has more influence on their personality than their position in the family. And—good news for parents—your child-raising style has more impact than birth order effects. [**]

That's because birth order effects aren't pre-ordained. They're the child's reaction to the situation in which the child finds herself. So you as the parent can change that situation to some degree. No, you can't give your child the mental or physical maturity of her older brother, who always wins at games. But you can work to really see and value each child as an individual, making sure that each child gets the attention he needs, regardless of where he falls in the birth order.

The three articles below will help you offer each child the support to help counteract birth order effects.

Supporting Your Oldest Child  

It’s hard to be the big sib. If your three year old is your youngest, she probably gets babied. If she’s your oldest, by contrast, you probably expect much more of her, because she seems so much bigger than the youngest. Right? That’s one reason that oldest children are often described as responsible, sensitive, perfectionistic, and a bit more anxious than their siblings. 

Supporting Your Youngest Child  

Younger sibs often idolize and copy their older sibs. But being younger usually means they can't compete, and it's not unusual for younger sibs to get demoralized trying to “keep up.” How can you support your younger child when he gets frustrated? And how can you help a child who worships his big sibling but often gets pushed around?

Preventing Middle Child Syndrome  

The combination of less parental responsiveness and the “identity crisis” of not having a specific role in the family can make middle children feel less valued, so they may act out to get attention. Unfortunately, that often annoys parents, who throw up their hands in dismay at their middle child's defiance, rather than realizing that it's a cry for connection.


[**] Jefferson T., Herbst J. H., McCrae R. R. (1998). "Associations between birth order and personality traits: Evidence from self-reports and observer ratings". Journal of Research in Personality 32 (4): 498–509.



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