Menu
Help your kids solve sibling fights—without affecting your own relationship

Parents routinely believe the greatest gift they can give their child is a sibling to grow up with, but this thought can be quickly shattered when these same children erupt and attack each other physically or verbally.


Wading into sibling conflict can feel like tricky territory.

On one hand, a parent will feel propelled to protect the child who is under attack, but what about your other child who is also full of frustration? How can adults lead through incidents while at the same time preserving their relationship with each child?

Sibling conflict is an area parents long for quick fixes. In reality, it is maturity that should provide the ultimate answer to their uncivilized ways of relating with each other. Until then, we are going to have to take the lead.

FEATURED VIDEO

There are a few things to keep in mind as you try to take charge when your kids are struggling with each other.

1. Control the circumstances, not the child

When kids struggle, they need adults who will step in and take an active role in stabilizing the chaos that has erupted. This may mean dealing with things in the moment and simply addressing them with statements such as, “This isn’t working,” “This needs to stop,” “Brothers aren’t for hitting,” or, “Sisters aren’t for yelling at.”

It is important to try and control the circumstances around the kids rather than to control an out-of-control child. If they need to separate from each other, try to do it in a non-shaming way such as, “We need to take a break,” or “I am going to help you find something else to do because this is not working out right now.” You may also decide to address the problem between them at a time when they can emotionally hear you.

For kids it can also be a source of wounding when they see their adults fail to jump in to intervene in difficult situations with their siblings. Adults need to be counted on as protectors and guides—if they let a child down this way continuously, the relationship with their adult can suffer.

2. Focus on understanding, not judgement

In order to protect your relationship with both kids, it is best not to play the role of judge and jury. If the focus on intervening is about fairness and understanding who is to blame, at some point one child will feel you are being less loyal to them and the incident will quickly transform into a relational one with you.

What you can do instead is to listen and acknowledge each child’s side and their frustration. For example, “You are upset because your sister yelled at you,” and, “You are upset because you were pushed in return.” While letting them know this isn’t how we deal with problems, you can convey that you understand how they are feeling.

To come to each child’s side emotionally conveys that you are with them, and allows you to address the problem with their behavior. For example, “I see you are both upset so I am going to help you with how we are going to share this toy.”

With older kids who have had a hard day at school and are taking their frustration out on a sibling, for example, you might come alongside them and say, “I can see you had a frustrating day and it needs to come out, your younger sister is not the person this should happen with. I am here and I will help you with this.”

When you focus on helping kids understand the emotions that drove them to act this way, you are better positioned to help them act differently the next time. It is emotion that drives behavior and that is where we want to do our work.

In order to hold onto more than one child at the same time, it is also important to bridge the problem behavior and convey a desire to be with each child despite conduct. If it is necessary to talk to each child later, after the incident, it may be best to do this one on one rather than together.

3. Use your relationship to solicit good intentions

The stronger your relationship with your child,, the more you can influence them to act differently the next time they are having problems. In debriefing incidents you can solicit their good intentions by asking them to, “Call me when you need help,” or “Share your toys and take turns,” or “Use your words to communicate.”

While they may still lose their good intentions in the heat of the moment, it does pave the way for them to consider how they can act differently and reiterates your expectations.

It also helps to keep in mind that when kids are emotionally overloaded, they know much better than they can behave (this goes for adults too). Emotional maturity takes time and patience. We need to keep our relationship with our kids strong so they can continue to mature and be guided by us.

4. Impose order through structure and routine

When kids struggle with each other it may be helpful to consider the overall structure they are operating under, as well as imposing some routine.

For example, if young kids are left alone, it is likely that they will engage in territorial battles over toys or people. This is the same for poorly supervised playgrounds and school recesses.

An important part of a child’s environment and structure should involve supervision by adults who can step in and provide guidance for their interactions. For older kids it might involve being in earshot so as to counter inappropriate ways of relating.

In terms of routine, when things are left open to interpretation, there is more leeway to fight over how things should be done. If you have specific routines in place, such as who goes first and how you will share things, there is less that is up for grabs.

5. Remind them about what they have in common

To cultivate a stronger attachment between siblings, it is helpful to play matchmaker by pointing out their similarities and areas of sameness. To activate their instincts of belonging and loyalty, get them working together on something, or playing and having fun with you.

It is also helpful to enlist the older child to take on a ‘big sibling’ role and point them towards helping their sibling. When a child is in the position of helper, it will move them out of competing and into the position of caring.

Bottom line: The only way to truly avoid sibling conflict is to only have one child. Conflict is something that comes with the territory of taking care of more than one immature being at a time. Conflict is also part of human relationships as we navigate having different feelings and needs from each other.

We need to lead through conflict, preserve our relationship with each child, and help them understand the emotions that drive them. We need to preserve order, point them towards a more civilized form of relating and be patient until maturity delivers, with our help, an emotionally mature, reflective, independent, and tempered individual.

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners
Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

FEATURED VIDEO

"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

Keep reading Show less
News