The Mindful Life™ Blog

10 Secrets to Stop Sibling Squabbles, Once and For All!

mindful life for parents Jun 16, 2024

Blenders and summertime go together. No, I do not mean the frozen margarita on the deck at sunset. I’m talking about how there are times in the summer when it seems that all the family normalcy that you thought you had gets tossed right into a blender. And often times, it’s not the “pulse” button that is hit, but rather the “crush” button.

Take, for instance, the change in sibling relationships that sometimes occurs when all of a sudden they are around each other for days at a time. A seemingly constant flow of bickering, badgering and even biting can drive a parent to reach for the real blender! So, I thought some of you might be interested in some additional tips to decrease your sibling wars during those dog days of summer, so the big family can continue to be the big happy family.

Here are my TOP 10 tips to decrease sibling squabbles:

1) Teamwork! Any chance you get, let your children be on the same team. For example; if you go bowling, instead of competing against each other put the kids on the same team. Assuming it goes well, commend them for the process and encourage them to team up more often. You want them to root for each other rather than against each other as much as possible.

2) Working together to solve a problem. Give your kids opportunities to solve problems together (ideally when they are not already about to kill each other). When my kids were younger and had the special treat of being able to watch a movie I told them, “you can watch a movie, but you have to agree on which one.” The first time I did this it wasn’t easy, but lo and behold the desire to watch a movie overcame the difficulties they were having learning to compromise. They know this is the deal now and have become quite proficient in their problem solving process!

3) Diffuse! By acknowledging your children’s feelings you can diffuse strong emotions. Help them identify their feelings with words, “You are angry with your brother because he didn’t ask before taking the truck out of your hands.” Letting your children know that you understand their frustration can help strong emotions subside.

4) Don’t compare! Comparing siblings intensifies anger, jealousy and thoughts of revenge. Instead of saying, “Why can’t you eat your vegetables like your brother?” simply comment on the behavior that displeases you, “I’m worried that you are going to be going to bed hungry tonight.”

5) Life isn’t fair! Give based on need not equality. Attempting to give equally to all the children all the time will only encourage comparisons, and someone will always feel cheated. Do yourself a favor and buy your child new shoes when they need new shoes, not because a sibling needed them.

6) Never ask, “Who started it?” It is nearly impossible to figure out who really started a dispute and blaming one child typically results in a desire for revenge. Again, simply comment on the behavior, “I see two sisters who are about to hurt each other.” (proceed to next step)

7) Banish. “If you are going to fight, please do it in a place that I won’t hear it.” Fighting often settles quickly when they know you are not going to take sides.

8) When fighting may be dangerous then Divide and Conquer. Describe the situation you see, “I see two sisters who are about to hurt each other, Jane you go to the office, Molly, you go to the kitchen.” Tell them they can be together when they are ready to play nicely.

9) If you need to discipline one of your children, do it privately. This prevents the disciplined child from being harassed by their sibling for being “bad” or “stupid.” Be clear that everyone makes mistakes and can learn from their mistakes.

10) Family Night! Create a weekly time to do something enjoyable together as a family. Go for a walk, eat ice cream, play games together. Foster a sense of fun between siblings.

And don’t forget about self care. This is the bonus strategy and secret sauce to it all!

Summertime – especially when juggling our parenting and work lives – can be stressful on all of us. If you’ve heard yourself scream, “I’ve had it up to here!” one too many times or are just struggling with managing overwhelm at work and at home, be sure to book some solo time for yourself. Make arrangements with your spouse, hire a babysitter or arrange some playdates with friends so that you have some quality down time. Then use that time to reset your nervous system and truly de-stress. Go for a walk, do some mindful breathing, take a bike ride, read a good book or head to a yoga class.

You’ll find your own tolerance for normal sibling squabbles increases in proportion to your self care.