From the Experts: Top 5 Things to Negotiate Sibling Rivalry

From the Experts: Top 5 Things to Negotiate Sibling Rivalry

The sibling arguments feel endless, sometimes. We hear you! The only thing more tiring than parenting is feeling like you need to play judge and jury constantly. Cooper is here to help... you can thank them later!

Cooper's advisors are best-in-field experts on childhood development and psychology, who understand that you aren't here to be told how to parent. Instead, they empower you with the knowledge, understanding, and usable tools to parent proactively and with purpose.

According to the US Census in 2021, most children (upwards of 80%) live with at least one sibling. And while there are so many benefits to sibling relationships (think improved negotiation, problem-solving skills, perspective-taking, theory of mind), for those of us with multiple kids at home - the fighting feels constant, the nagging is endless, the intervening is exhausting. Here are 5 things to help you negotiate sibling rivalry. 

Talk about siblings as friends. Try framing sibling relationships as friendships, not as a blood bond that just means you “have to love them no matter what.” Friendships are multi-dimensional, involve negotiation, and are built upon shared interests. Encourage siblings to get to know each other and create a friendship outside of the family. You can emphasize proactive social skills like teaching your children language around how to include their sibling in a game, or how to respectfully decline an invitation to play. Research tells us that a preventative approach like this one reduces fighting and promotes kindness.


Give each individual child what they need. We’re flipping the script. At home, instead of focusing on equality, focus on giving according to the individual need. You might say “everyone in this house gets what they need'' (NOTE: this is different than everyone in this house gets what they WANT). This is particularly helpful when you hear the dreaded, frequent, multisyllabic “it isn’t faaaaaaaaaairrrrrrrrrrrrrr.” Encourage your children to ask for what they need, but not in comparison to their siblings.


Allow routine arguing. Yes, it’s annoying and disruptive (“That’s my controller!”, “No, it’s mine! I had it before you were alive,” “No you didn’t,” “Yes, I did,” “MOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!”), but by allowing your child to work through routine arguments, they are learning conflict resolution skills. 


Try to take judge and jury out of your parent-description and show confidence in your children's ability to work things out (when they can). Try “I have confidence you two can work this out” or “You need to tell your brother how you feel.” Remember, if your children are always arguing through you, they are missing an opportunity to develop their relationship on their own.


Don’t feel pressure to do things as a family if they are stressful. Some days are harder than others. Some days the sibling fights are relentless. Go easy on yourself. If one of your children is having a particularly challenging time, postpone that trip to the beach or that picnic in the park. It is OK (and encouraged!) to wait until things calm down, and then you can try again. 

Keep any judgment or labeling on your end at bay. Research tells us that labels (positive or negative) can have long term negative outcomes. By labeling, we are locking our children into a specific role in the family. Remember - the listener doesn’t always listen, and the wild one won’t always be wild. The burden of labels can worsen behavior and weaken the family unit.


Checkout Cooper for an on demand library of research based tools, small virtual group sessions, weekly parent coaching and 24/7 support.

Older post