How to Dispel Sibling Rivalry

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Suggestions from a Panel on How to Dispel Sibling Rivalry.

Nothing can break a mothers heart quite like sibling rivalry. In this post, we discuss ideas for improvement and love among siblings.

How to dispel Sibling Rivalry

Among the top 5 of my greatest desires for my kids is to have a good relationship with each other both now as I’m raising them, as well as when they are adults. Not much warms my mama heart more than not just seeing them get along, but loving each other. Relying on each other, helping each other.

I don’t often like to share how well my kids get along, because I feel a sense of “survivors guilt” because I recognize that isn’t the case with everyone, don’t want to come off as braggy, and KNOW it may not always stick. I think about this a LOT! What is it that I feel has led to my kids not just tolerating each other, but truly getting along. Not just my boys with each other, but with their sisters as well. It spans the ages and gender, and I’m OFTEN in AWE of them.

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I don’t have a secret answer for you, but I did want to share 3 things that we’ve done very consistently in our home over the years that I believe has made a difference. They bring a spirit of love and togetherness that has bonded us.

How do I get my kids to like each other?

  1. Family dinner every night. Ok, there are definitely SOME NIGHTS there are exceptions, but I plan my kids extra activities around this. It’s very important to me and my favorite time of the day. Looking around at my favorite humans, laughing, sharing about our day.
  2. Family scripture reading and prayer every night. I take ZERO credit for this. My husband is amazing and calls us all together about 8pm, sometimes 9pm each night. With the reading, it’s for 10 minutes or less, I’m often dragging in, people are rolling on the floor, it isn’t a spiritual haven, but we do it. Sometimes in the car on a drive home from somewhere. Ending with a family prayer.
  3. Weekly Family Home Evening lesson. We have designated every Monday night as a family night. No activities, outings, and if there is randomly, we all go to support. My kids have always loved this family night. There is a song, lesson, activity, treat, and it usually lasts under an hour. This has been great bonding time, as we rotate who does the lesson (kids included) and activity, etc. Another one I owe to my husband for consistency. Maybe one day I’ll expound on this. There is a really great article called More Diligent and Concerned at Home that is worth the read.

The gathering for a common goal I think is HUGE in closeness. My husband and I are not very contentions (I’d be the worst if I were to rank in our home) so I think that helps with the energy of contention.

There are a few others things that I do feel passionate about such as Decorating with Pictures (to show family team unity all over the house), just the act of taking regular pictures together, vacations alone (without friends, extended family), putting the devices down in the car so everyone can chat, and just not allowing unkind words, even in joking, at all.

I put together a free e-book a few years ago all about 10 Intentional Ways to bring your family closer together. If you don’t have it, you can get it through my newsletter sign up!


We’ve DEFINITELY had squabbles, don’t get me wrong. It was more prevalent when they were younger, but didn’t feel huge.

how to dispel sibling rivalry at home

Right now, with our older kids, I often will call out “Try AGAIN” as I mentioned in the introduction to the parenting podcast. With disagreements, squabbles, or words that need to be adjusted, I’ve found those two words have made a huge different. A way to telling my kids I don’t like what they did, and they self adjust.

I’m also excited to share feedback I got from you as the readers. SO MANY GREAT WORDS OF WISDOM BELOW!!!

I included this in the Parenting Question of the week in the weekly newsletter last week, and got a great response! I LOVE hearing from all of you!

Below you will find responses from others as to what they do when they encounter sibling rivalry:

How to handle Sibling Rivalry with young kids

  • I have boy/girl twins so they are always competing. I have repeatedly talked to them about different people having different gifts and it’s okay to not be good at everything. We try to encourage being happy for their sibling when the other one wins or does better at something. It’s a constant struggle.
  • Have them do an activity together and also say five things they love about the other person, while Holding hands. Usually ends in hugging and laughter. I still do this sometimes with my teens!
  • By talking about what God would want us to do, and bringing (to their minds) the wonderful fun times they have had together. Like, “remember when Sara helped you when you fell down the steps?” or “remember when we went to the fair and we had so much fun riding the ferris wheel?” Stuff like this tends to take the edge off the rivalry and then more talking can continue.
  • I just remind them that they love each other and that they will always have each other so they should treat each other in a way that shows that love and friendship.
  • Try and separate them and distract.
  • For negative comments, we encourage our littles to then say something positive. “You build better tower than me” and knocks it down. Child then had to apologize and give compliment. “Im sorry I destroyed your tower. I loved how you made it so tall. Will you help me try?”
  • We used to make the kids kiss each other on the lips to make up after a fight.
  • I really have tried to encourage my kids to be cheerleaders for each other. I’ve shown them how good it feels for someone to build you up and to try to do that for others. “Be a builder” is a common phrase around our house.
  • For younger kids mostly separation has worked. Depending on the age, there is limited understanding and reasoning capabilities. Hm. That COULD apply for many years, actually. I give my kids their own space. They are forced to be together a lot with my husband pastoring multiple churches. They endure long car rides, church services and restaurants together, so at home they have separate “hang out “ areas, and if they have friends over they are taught to respect each other’s time.

How to handle sibling rivalry with older kids

  • Try to get them involved in different activities from each other so they are not competing. Continue the conversations about encouraging each other when one does well at something. I’m not sure it’s working very well. We still have tears when the other sibling wins.
  • I have 3 teens and they get along really well for the most part. We tried to foster this from a young age. Told them they had built in best friends, our family was put together for a reason and they could do greater things together than alone. We’d nip arguing in the bud and tell them things like, “Try it again” with a better tone, etc. I love that they are all friends.
  • Discuss the nature of different times and seasons with them. If things are truly unfair, try and find a way to even things out a bit.
  • We try to keep the kids connected to each other with lots of vacations and family time. I would rather have engagement even when that means conflict than the kids retreating to their own spaces/ devices and ignoring each other. I don’t want that kind of peace.
  • We remind them that a compliment to one child is not an insult to another. To say, “Sally, you worked so hard to clean your room,” does not also mean “John you did a horrible job of cleaning your room.”
 sibling love
{My brothers and me last summer}

Thoughts on How to have a good relationship with siblings as adults

  • I get along well with most of my siblings now. I am probably closest to my sister who is 18 months younger than I am. We had a lot of arguments when we were teenagers but now we get along well.
  • Ok. We get along but we are not close which is why I have been so diligent to encourage this with my three. I wish my brothers were my friends but we just aren’t and they have no desire for that. So… My parents never required us to get along. Just accepted that siblings fought. (Literally that is my only complaint about them. They were and still are amazing parents otherwise. )
  • One of my siblings died from rabies after being bitten by a wild animal. I have never forgotten the last words we shared. My other sibling is lost in a sea of drugs. I think my parents could have done some things differently as we were growing up to encourage us to love one another more instead of having some sort of sibling rivalry.
  • We were a military family and knew that friends would come and go. We knew we could live anywhere in the world, but we knew we would always at least have each other. Although we weren’t always best friends and even now we are all 5 sooo different from one another BUT we have always been there for one another and look forward to gathering together no matter how crazy it is.
  • Lots of family time.
  • They told us family was forever so we had to find a way to love each other
  • Not as close as I would like— I wish my mom had established a girls lunch date or retreat or something when we got older. (not too late for YOU to start!)
  • My husband and I are both close with our siblings. I’m not sure what our parents did or didn’t do. But I have always loved my brothers and looked out for them. As they’ve gotten older, they and their spouses are truly some of the people I love best. I think we all feel grateful to be a family and work hard to be loving and unselfish.
  • My relationship with my older sister is awesome. She is pretty much my best friend even though we live in different countries. THAT did not start until she went to college, though. My parents could have fostered our individuality better. My sister was good, proper and what they wanted. I was a wild child whom they continued (continue???) to keep making into what my sister was. What my parents did RIGHT: routines! Sister made supper with mom, I cleaned up with mom. Had “designated” seating in the car which eliminated arguments. When my sister moved to college, and we suddenly became besties, my parents did everything they could to keep us in contact (30 years ago) letters, phone calls, surprise visits.

I hope you were able to gain some insight. Please share in the comments below any extra thoughts on how to dispel sibling rivalry, or thoughts you’d like to see for future parenting questions of the week.

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Comments

  1. Parents should train young children love each other from the moment and give each other constant.

  2. Good article and beautiful template