Parenting Advice: Helping Your Tots Get Along

toddlers in towels

Sibling rivalry is as old as time. And while it’s normal and expected between kids who are close in age, living with the constant bickering can be tiresome. Preventing fights and disagreements between siblings isn’t always possible, but creating a loving family dynamic is. The following parenting tips will help you achieve sibling peace (and quiet!) among your tots.

Why it happens
Individual temperaments may play a role (for example, the brash older brother loves to poke his demure younger sister, and it escalates from there). Kids also pick up on the ways their parents handle friction, so if you and your spouse tend to stomp around when the garbage doesn’t get taken out on time, expect the same from your children. But the biggest reason for sibling rivalry may be the competition kids wage in order to gain Mom and Dad’s attention -- and the moments of jealousy that tend to follow.

What to do
Try to stay out of your kids’ fights at the start, as some children are able to resolve their differences on their own with minimal noise. If you do need to step in, separate the warring parties and let them calm down. Remind your tots that it takes two to fight, and there’s not just one sibling in the wrong. If they’re old enough, get them both to talk about the issue. For example, ask each child why he is mad and then have them both come up with ideas to solve the problem.

How to minimize it
Reduce tension between siblings by setting a good example with your spouse. Demonstrating how to cooperate and compromise may help to lessen sibling rivalry. It’s also important to spend some time with each child individually when you can, and make sure your kids have a bit of time and space to be alone, too. On the other hand, planning family events (biking, camping, or special dinners) is a lovely way for everyone to relax and bond together. Tots who share quality time like this may be less likely to fight.

It can be upsetting -- as well as headache-provoking -- to hear your tots argue over who gets the bigger slice of cake or whose turn it is to feed the dog. But take heart: One day, they’ll grow up, learn to get along, and just might become best friends for life.

by Jennifer Kelly Geddes