How to Promote a Healthy Relationship Between Siblings: 6 Steps
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One day this will be but a distant memory.

It doesn’t matter what the gender combination or age spread is in a family, sibling rivalry is inevitable. It’s as natural as poopy diapers or toddler tantrums -- and the simplest things can spark it. For example, perhaps you thought you preschooler outgrew an old toy because he's neglected it for months. Then your toddler discovers it -- and suddenly your preschooler develops a renewed interest in it. Bickering ensues. It’s the nature of the beast. The way you handle this rivalry helps determine how deep-rooted it becomes -- and if it ultimately affects the siblings’ life-long relationship. You need to establish guidelines based on fairness, but you also teach your kids about kindness and tolerance.


  1. 1
    Create a bond before birth. If your toddler or preschooler is about to become a big sib, encourage her to touch your belly, talk to the baby, tell the baby stories — do everything you can to create an early bond. You might point to your growing belly and say, “Look how big your baby brother is getting. Right now he’s the same size as an apple…isn’t that silly? I hope he doesn’t look like an apple. Oh, look at this, he’s kicking, I think he wants you to say something to him. He’s already excited to meet you!”
  2. 2
    Teach your children kindness. Your job is to help your kids find constructive ways to act kindly towards each other. Set the stage to foster warmth and kindness within your family. For example, when your toddler scrapes his knee, say to his older sister, “Dr. Jenny, I need your help. Bobby’s got a boo-boo. Can you hold his wiggly leg gently while I put on the bandage? Oh, you’re such a wonderful helper, Jenny. Bobby is so lucky to have you.”
  3. 3
    Encourage tolerance. If your toddler is behaving badly and taunting her older brother, have a talk with the older child about why his little sister is acting like a screaming banshee. You can explain that little sis isn't feeling well, that she missed her nap -- or that she's just behaving this way because sometimes toddlers get frustrated easily. Tell the older child that you really appreciate his patience with his little sister -- and ask him if he can think of a way to make her smile.
  4. 4
    Crack a joke to diffuse anger. When your children are bickering and just generally annoying each other, shake your head and say, “You two are acting like crazy monkeys. I wonder if I should put you both out in that tree and feed you bananas. What do you think?” They’ll likely both giggle so much that they'll forget all about the bickering.
  5. 5
    Teach your children empathy. Show them pictures of characters or people with different emotions. Show them a picture of a sad little girl and ask them why the little girl might be sad. Label emotions and talk about feelings. You need to help them understand that everyone has feelings. Talk about your own feelings. You might say, “I feel frustrated that the two of you are fighting. I love you both so much and it makes me feel sad when you’re not getting along.”
  6. 6
    Throw comparisons out the window. If your toddler can put on her socks more proficiently than your preschooler, praise the little one but don’t compare them. Parental comparisons drive a wedge between siblings, making one feel like he doesn’t measure up.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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