10 tips for better sibling relationships


Dr Richard C. Woolfson
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Family life is that much more peaceful when your children get on fine with each other. Bickering between siblings creates a terrible atmosphere at home for parents and children – and it’s even worse when the children are older. Sibling disputes when the children are between seven and nine years can be very bitter and long-lasting, as each tries to gain the upper hand over the other. There is no magic formula for creating strong, positive sibling relationships, but there is still lots you can do at this age to bring them closer to each other.

10 Tips for better Sibling Relationships

  1. Deal seriously with their complaints about each other An endless list of moans and groans from your children can make your day seem like an eternity. Listen to what they have to say – they feel better knowing you are prepared to listen. Ask them to explain why they think their sibling behaves badly towards them.

  2. Never compare them with each other Comparisons between siblings are guaranteed to cause tension. No matter how tempted you may be to say, “Your sister is much more polite than you”, resist such statements at all costs. Comparisons are divisive and only increase rivalry.

  3. Encourage your children to cooperate Allocate joint activities so that they’re forced to work together (like tidying up the toy box). Supervise these activities to ensure that they do work in unison.Playing board games is also helpful.

  4. Treat each child as an individual The fact that your nine-year-old likes a particular game does not mean that your seven-year-old likes it as well. Each of your children has their own separate likes and dislikes. Sibling rivalry is less likely when your children are allowed to develop their individuality at home.

  5. Ask them to justify their complaints Always ask your children to explain why they moan about their sibling and make sure they offer you an explanation. Encourage them to give specific examples of the annoying behaviour rather than make general accusations – and where there is no real justification, point that out.

  6. Ignore minor bickering Obviously, you will have to get involved when they are at each other’s throats or when they are very upset. But try not to jump in too soon when arguments are petty. Ignoring your children at that stage may end their quarrel sooner than rewarding their disagreement with your immediate attention.

  7. Teach conflict resolution When you have to intervene, don’t just drag them apart and put them into separate rooms. Keep them together while trying to sort out the disagreement. Ask each in turn to give their account of what happened. Listen objectively to what they have to say to you, and summarise the problem at the end.

  8. Rule out physical aggression Make it clear that hitting is not allowed under any circumstances. No matter the severity of the dispute, they should understand that the only way they can express their disagreement or frustration is through words, and not through hitting, kicking or punching.

  9. Search for solutions Every problem can be sorted when everyone makes an effort. When you have heard your children’s complaints, suggest a solution. For instance, if they both want to play with the same toy or game, organise them so that one plays with it for five minutes, and then it is the turn of your other child.

  10. Acknowledge age differences Sometimes arguments between siblings centre around the fact that the older child is allowed more freedom than the younger child. Like it or not, your younger one will have to face the fact that the sibling is older and is therefore entitled to greater flexibility, such as going to bed later.

(Photo: Cathy Yeulet/123RF.com)


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