Category Archives: Siblings

Sibling Harmony

How to foster sibling harmony

See video below for a simple way to encourage your children to get on better, particularly over the long Summer holidays.


Examples of Descriptive Praise for positive sibling interactions

Look out for any examples of sharing, team work, patience, not interrupting, not reacting physically, problem solving, being considerate and thoughtful.

“You are both being so friendly to each other and really sharing those felt tips.”

“It is so lovely to watch you playing basketball together and Zoe you are not getting upset when the ball doesn’t go into the net.”

“For ten minutes you haven’t said one annoying thing to your sister.  That shows real self –control.”

“Even though you are really angry, you didn’t hit but were able to explain with words how you feel.”

“You worked out a fair way to decide what TV programme to watch even though you both like different things.”

“It was so generous of you to share your crisps with Ella after she dropped hers on the floor.  That was really thoughtful of you.”

“We’ve been in the car for 20 minutes and you haven’t argued once.  It is such a pleasure to be with you three.”

“I love being with you when you are not squabbling.”

Siblings – what to do about the fighting

What can parents do about siblings fighting?

Most siblings argue. It’s a natural part of growing up.  There are even some benefits!!!  They learn how to share, listen, accept differences, handle teasing, assert themselves etc.

The problem is it can very upsetting, noisy and exhausting for parents who just want their kids to get on.  How children get on can really affect the quality of family life and the way parents handle sibling conflict can affect a child’s relationships into adulthood.

How can I find out who started what?

One of the main reasons children fight, argue or squabble is for parent’s attention.  If you give attention to their negative behaviour, you will see more of it.  Children want justice.  They come to the parent to assign blame and for you to punish or tell off the child who is at fault.  The problem is it’s almost impossible to really get to the bottom of who started what.

A parent’s role is not to be judge and jury but to teach children how to resolve their own conflicts.  You can even say something like “I know in the past I used to take sides but now I want to help you to sort problems out by yourselves.”

Low level squabbling

Assign a ‘squabbling room’ in the house, stay out of it and ask them to go there.  Don’t give any attention to the fighting but say “I am interested to hear what solution you can come up with.”

More heated arguments

Remain neutral and don’t own the problem by taking sides. You can use ’emotion coaching’ and empathise with how they feel but don’t try and solve the problem for them.

  1. Describe the problem without taking sides.
  2. Describe how you think the child is feeling. e. g. “You think it’s unfair that Max took your pencils without asking and Max you think James is being really bossy and he should just share.”
  3. Encourage your children to see each other’s feelings and the other sibling’s point of view.
  4. Ask them how they can sort it out or find a solution that both children will be happy with.  Parents may need to give suggestions at this point if the children can’t come up with anything.

I have lots of great ideas and strategies to encourage sibling harmony but I will leave those  for another time. There is a whole session dedicated to this topic on the 10 week course and a one off ‘Siblings Matter’ seminar that can be delivered in schools or the workplace.