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Seven strategies to minimize sibling rivalry

Michele Borba, EdD, is an internationally renowned educational consultant and recipient of the National Educator Award. She has presented workshops to more than 750,000 participants worldwide. She is the award-winning author of 20 books ...

sibling rivalry

Summertime is the perfect time for a makeover -- for your kids, that is! Get their attitudes in check and put an end to sibling rivalry while creating some harmony in your house! Michele Borba, EdD, author of No More Misbehavin': 38 Difficult Behaviors and How to Stop Them, offers some advice!

Behavior makeover plan

If you have siblings, think about your relationships. How well did you get along? Did you feel your parents favored one sibling? What made you think so? How did you feel about that? Was there anything your parents could have done differently to minimize sibling tension?

Now reflect on how you treat your kids. A good question to ponder is: "If someone asked your child if you treat your kids fairly, how would he or she respond?" Here are a few questions to help you assess how well you're doing in making all your kids feel equally treasured. Mark any potential problem areas, then make a pledge to improve them.

____ Does each kid feel like your favorite?
____ Do you avoid comparing your kids in front of others?
____ Do you provide opportunities for each child to nurture her special talents?
____ Do you openly listen to each child's concerns?
____ Do your eyes light up with the same intensity when you see each of your kids?
____ Do you schedule equal one-on-one time with each child?
____ Do you avoid taking sides whenever there's a conflict between your kids?
____ Do you pay equal attention to each child's hobbies, friends, school, and interests?
____ Do you set rules and expectations for each child that your other kids consider fair?
____ Do you distribute chores, rewards, and opportunities fairly among your kids?

Now it's time to take action to begin making over your kid's behavior:

  1. Start by seriously thinking about your kids' relationships with one another. Which child feels more resentful or left out? What might be fueling that resentment? What situations seem to escalate rivalry? Make a list of possible causes in your Makeover Journal. Make a plan to change the one you have the most control over.
  2. Pretend you really are in the shoes of the child who feels jealous. How would you feel if you were your kid? How would you act? What will you do to change your relationship with this child so he feels just as special in your eyes? Write down your thoughts then commit to making that change happen.
  3. Next, talk your kids one-on-one and find out what they enjoy most (and least) about each sibling. It might help you assess what's going on between them. Ask if they have any suggestions that might improve their relationship. Is there a suggestion you could use? If so, what will you do to begin to implement the idea?
  4. Now reread the strategies and choose one or two to experiment with. Write a plan in your Makeover Journal as to how you will use the strategy. Also review the section on "Sibling Wars" for further ideas.
  5. Continue experimenting with the strategy until you notice improvement in sibling harmony.

Makeover pledge

How will you use the seven strategies and the Behavior Makeover Plan to help your kid achieve long-term change? On the lines below, write exactly what you agree to do within the next 24 hours to begin your kid's behavior makeover.

Makeover results

All behavior makeovers take hard work, constant practice, and parental reinforcement. Each step your kid takes towards change may be a small one, so be to sure acknowledge and congratulate every one of them along the way. It takes a minimum of 21 days to see real results. So don't give up! Remember, if one strategy doesn't work, try another. Write your child's weekly progress below. Keep track of daily progress in your Makeover Journal.

Week 1:
Week 2:
Week 3:


For young kids

  • Katie Did It, by Becky Bring McDaniel (Children's Press, 1994). The youngest sibling always gets blamed for all her siblings' mishaps until one day she takes credit by doing something wonderful all by herself.

Ages 4 to 8

  • A Place for Ben, by Jeanne Titherington (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1987). A sweetly illustrated tale of an older brother who wishes he could escape from his pesty younger sibling.
  • Pain and the Great One, by Judy Blume (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984). An eight year-old sister and six-year-old brother tell all about each and the contest to see whom Mom and Dad loves most.
  • Oh Brother ... Oh Sister! A Sister's Guide to Getting Along, by Brooks Whitney (City: Pleasant Company Publications, 1999). Offers fun, practical advise for girls 9 to 12 on sibling issues siblings including fighting, sharing, jealousy and respect and encourages them to create stronger bonds with their brothers and sisters.
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1983). A humorous kid book that deals with an older brother who has to deal with an annoying two-year-old brother.

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