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  • Writer's pictureOnce Upon A Mommy

The Sibling Wars

Updated: Feb 26

By Cris S.

February 7, 2024


The battle for kids and teens to be better than their siblings seems to be a war that never ends. This is a completely normal and natural rite of passage for kids, however, it can cause a whole lot of strife for the entire family at times. There may not be any way to completely stop these face-offs, but there are a few things you can do to at least cool the flames...

Remember that some sibling rivalry is normal, and not always a bad thing. These natural rivalries are what make kids try harder, run faster and all around try to do better!

If you have multiple kids, you probably realize this when you think about your oldest compared to your younger children. It's very likely that your second and/or third ones hit milestones sooner and picked up on how to do things faster, mainly because they were trying to keep up with their older sibling(s).

  • TRY NOT TO PLAY THE COMPARISON GAME. Each kid is their own person, and sometimes you might think to yourself "man, I wish she was more like her older sister!" But that is never something you should say out loud. It can harbor resentment and make a child feel like they're not good enough because they aren't just like their "better" sibling. Instead, explain to them how they might do or say something in a more productive way. If they are in a position where they really messed up, discuss things they could have done differently to receive a better outcome.

  • If they are the ones who bring up the subject of their other sibling being "better" at something, talk to them about how everyone has their differences and we all have things that we are good at and things that we are bad at. It also wouldn't hurt at this point to bring up a thing or two that they do really well. "Your sister might be really good at writing essays, but you are a master at math!" We want our kids to nurture their relationship with their siblings, but they also need to nurture themselves as an individual.

  • BE THE BEST ROLE MODELS YOU CAN BE. Yeah, I get it. I have five kids, and I have absolutely done my fair share of yelling, being upset, stressed out and frustrated. Over the years though, I completely understand how much our behaviors as parents reflect onto our children. There is a saying that says "Your kids will do what you do, not what you say." This statement is completely true. Whatever you and your partner role model to your children will likely be mimicked in how the kids treat each other. It's not necessarily a bad thing for your children to see you and your partner get into an argument, as long as you handle it maturely. You guys may yell and be angry at first, but you want the kids to see how you both can talk about it and eventually work it out by coming to some sort of agreement. It is so important for your kids to witness these types of interactions. Something else important for the kids to see is you and your partner being kind to each other. The more this is modeled to them in their lives, the kinder they will be towards each other. It's good for them to see you both hug each other and tell the other that you love them. It's great to see their Dad bring flowers to their Mom.

  • TRY NOT TO DISCIPLINE ONE KID IN FRONT OF THEIR SIBLINGS. If your child messes up and needs a stern talking to, do it in private. You want your child to learn some kind of a lesson, but if you try to do it with an audience, they will just be focusing how embarrassed they are. This also provides the other siblings ammo to ridicule them later.

  • If one kid asks you about why the other one got into trouble, you can simply tell them that it's their business and if they want to share it with you, they will. Some parents would rather use discipline as a teaching moment to all the children, which is also fine as long as you do it tactfully. Try not to yell (I know, I know, easier said than done sometimes!) Always make sure to explain to the children what could have been done better to avoid problems in the future.

  • MAKE THEM REGULARLY BRING EACH OTHER UP INSTEAD OF BRINGING EACH OTHER DOWN. Sometimes this can take a bit of practice. As your children get older, they can become a very important support for each other but you need to teach them and foster that early in life. Instead of Mom always being the one to intervene and make a child feel better, offer for one of the other kids to give it a shot. Example: Mom- "Hey Avery, Kiera had a rough day at school today. Do you want to go talk to her and try to find out what happened?" If one child is down and feeling bad about something, encourage one of their siblings to go give them a hug or offer to watch a movie together. If one of your children is teasing or being mean to another one, make him go to the sibling he was teasing and say something nice and positive (this honestly drives them nuts, but it WORKS!). This has a much bigger impact than just apologizing, and it gives them practice being positive towards each other and nurturing a more loving relationship. Also if you do witness one child being nice or doing something thoughtful to another one, be sure to give them praise for this. (Even if it's something small, like picking up something they dropped and handing it back to them). It can be as simple as saying "That was so nice of you to pick that up for them..." A little positive reinforcement can go a long way. All kids like to be praised, so make sure you always acknowledge good behaviors towards their siblings.

  • TEACH THEM THAT THEY ARE NOT ALWAYS GOING TO GET THE SAME THINGS AT THE SAME TIME. I have to remind my kids quite often about this, but it stops the complaining in its tracks, especially when I mention something I recently did for them. My 12 year old will go to visit a friend for the day, then come home and be upset that I took one of her sisters to out to lunch and she "missed it". I explain to her that they all get special treats at different times for different reasons. Things are not always going to be exactly equal, despite how much anyone tries.

  • If one kid goes out of their way to do some extra things around the house, they will typically get a little something extra. The one who gets all "A's" on their report card will get more of an incentive than one who slacks on homework and barely makes a "C". Remind your children that the more good things they do and the harder they work, the more likely it will be that they receive something extra. Also, you can remind older children that they are always clothed, sheltered, fed and loved. After all, those are some of the most important things in life and those things tend to be handed out evenly!

  • As always, make sure you are always reminding your children how much you love them! Hug them all the time no matter what age or stage they are in. My rule is that my kids are never too old for hugs or "I love you"s. That is one of the most important things you can do as a parent, and an important way to show your children that you love them ALL unconditionally.

  • Practice kind and encouraging words within the entire family. After all, good and bad behaviors are learned, and the more you practice GOOD behaviors the better your outcomes will be!



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