Rivalry to Harmony: Promoting Peace Among Siblings (Part 1)

Rivalry to Harmony: Promoting Peace Among Siblings (Part 1)

Sharing, holding hands, helping tie shoes, siblings can share a lifelong bond of trust, love and friendship. They can also have many fights, brawls and squabbles.


Recent studies on sibling relationships seem to show a pattern relating to sibling relationships and parental affection, attachment and attention. Children that reported having to fight for parental attention and being forced to share belongings were generally unhappier later in life than those who have maintained a strong bond to their parents and siblings throughout childhood and early adulthood. Those children who felt their needs were attended to by parents early in life and in the teenage years, report more happiness later in life than children without siblings.

So if having siblings can actually be good for overall happiness how can parents create an atmosphere that can lead ever lasting sisterhood/brotherhood?

These are three ways to promote sibling harmony in the home:

Team Work: Getting siblings to work together, to solve problems, overcome challenges can be a great way to form early bonds of a lifetime of friendship and trust. Having pillow fights for example can be a great playful way to create a pretend atmosphere of “us” against “them” bringing siblings closer in their attempts to defeat mom or dad. Just recently all three of my children waited sneakily (giggling up a small storm) under the covers just waiting to pounce with a handful of pillows. I threw myself onto the mattress, over dramatizing the total defeat and watched as the children gave each other high fives and yelled “We are the coolest team ever.”

Special Time: Maintaining individual and group special times each and every week (or daily) is a wonderful way to show every family member that they matter and have their place and space in the family. For our family, we try to rotate special times just with mom or dad for each child where the children can for example choose to run an errand or play a game just with one parent. Special times in our family have even grown to include times that are reserved just for the boys to do something together or with their sister. On Monday morning, my five year old spent about twenty minutes reading a board book to his sister, showing her shapes and animals and upon finishing the board book he told me “That was special time for just me and Bella, she likes to hear me read even if I can’t read all the words yet.”

Respect: Creating an overall atmosphere of respect in the family can go a long way to promote sibling harmony. In our family we try to respect our children’s feelings when they are not ready to share a beloved toy or snack. We also have moved into accepting that after an incident involving hitting or hurting our children might not be ready to apologize to a sibling right away.

Recently, my three year old grabbed a toy car out of my five year olds hands. My five year old was livid and hit his brother on the arm. My three year old threw the car down and walked away crying and wanted a hug from me. Two minutes later he went back and the boys had a conversation sort of like this: “Are you ready to share that now?” “No, I’m mad you threw my favorite car.” “You hit me” “I did. Do you want to borrow this car instead; you can be the police car and catch the bad guy.” “Ok.” They continued to play. Ten minutes later my five year old said completely unprompted: “I’m so sorry I hurt you, want to borrow the car now? I’m done.” “Thanks brother.” Said my three year old.

How do you promote peace and friendship among siblings? Do you share (or wish you did) a special bond with sibblings?

Related Resources:

Rivalry To Harmony Part 2: Five Games To Promote Team Work Among Siblings

Positive Parenting:Siblings and Teasing

Siblings Don’t Have to be Rivals– by Marie Hartwell-Walker

Siblings Struggles – by Janet Landsbury

Peace & Be Well,


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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a Masters in Psychology and is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, and one cuddly dog.

5 Responses to Rivalry to Harmony: Promoting Peace Among Siblings (Part 1)

  1. Hi – I love your website. I have 3 year-old b/g twins who just started really fighting with each other. They hit or push each other and my son just started pulling my daughter’s hair. It’s not often, but when it does occur I’m not sure how to handle it. I’m not usually in the room where the incident occur, I just have a crying child come running to me to tell me what happened. Other times I’ll see the incident. How would you recommend handling these situations? Thank you!

  2. Hi Gail,
    somethings that are important and helpful to do when siblings fight are to learn to stay calm ourselves and help them learn to mediate their feelings and reactions. the issue here is that at age 3 neither of them is going to be great at impulse control just quite yet (that is developmentally and age appropriate) so when they do get frustrated, they will turn to more reactive strategies until they learn other coping skills. the new skills would be saying their feelings such as “I am mad” or “I am frustrated” or “I need help” and seeking alternatives to hitting such as counting, going to a calming corner, stomping a foot but not hurting others… This takes modeling, talking, and repetition, plus more repetition! It might be a good idea to put up a visual chart of feelings and things your children can choose to do when they are upset or frustrated. While 3 year olds can learn to play alone in another room, try to be mindful of how long they are being together, visit them or walk by smiling to reinforce the positive interactions, don’t take sides if you weren’t there to see it, ask each one to tell their story “can you tell me what happened, then I will listen to your sister/brother” At this young age, it’s important to intervene but calmly, with the intent to help them move forward with their play/activity. hope that helps!

  3. Thank you for the response. I feel like I’m being dismissive when I ask them to tell me what happened and I don’t do anything about it. Like my daughter will come running to me saying that her brother hit her and I’ll ask him what happened and he says he didn’t do anything. So I ask my daughter where it hurts and that I’ll kiss it better and say I’m sorry she got hurt it wasn’t nice for him to hit but then I don’t do anything to “punish” him. So then it feels like I’m being dismissive to his behavior or even to her feelings. Does that make sense? Thank you so much for the replies, I really appreciate it!

  4. Hi Gail,
    Because both are still three, even if you don’t know who hit who or what happened, it can be a good idea to say something like “seems like this is a good time to review some of our family rules…hands are not for hitting, if you feel mad you can….” and explain whatever alternatives you guys have established at home, this way you have addressed the behavior as being unacceptable but not created any finger pointing 🙂 Also, if you do SEE it happening, make sure to address that as well, not to punish but to let the child know “I saw that, it’s not acceptable, you can….instead” and take a moment to reconnect, see if they need anything etc… hope that helps!

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