How to encourage siblings to get along: Advice you can give directly to your kids

By Joseph Sacks, LCSW

In considering how to encourage siblings to get along, it’s good to remember that not only are there things we as parents can do, as I describe here, but there are things the kids themselves can work on to help get along better with their siblings. Therefore, I suggest you have your kids read the following advice:

Are you unhappy because of constant fighting with your siblings?

Do you feel that your parents treat you unfairly and always take your siblings’ side? Do you wish you could just get along with your siblings and be friends? I'm going to give you some very helpful tips here, and if you can put them into practice you will get along much better with your brothers and sisters!

The truth is, siblings naturally love each other. What is one of the most valuable things a child can have? Another child not too far from his age who he can play with, in other words a friend. Siblings make great friends! The great overall love that they have each other and the mutual benefit that they get from having each other as playmates is enough to overcome and outweigh any disagreements.

The problem between siblings only begins when the parents step in and use their authority in an unfair way!

You see it is very difficult for parents to properly judge who is right in a sibling conflict! You need the wisdom of King Solomon to do that. Most parents just simply aren't aware of all the intricacies that are going on in their children's relationships to be able to fairly judge. Therefore, most times when parents intervene in sibling conflict they are judging unfairly, and that creates resentment from the loser towards the winner. Really the child should be angry at his parents for judging unfairly but children don’t like to do that because it is natural for a child to idealize his parents, therefore his anger gets unfairly directed at the sibling who won. Even if the parent only favors one child in disputes 60 percent of the time, the other child is going to notice, resentment is going to build up and real sibling conflict is going to erupt. That's the real secret, bad sibling conflict is only fueled by parents who intervene too much and judge unfairly. Therefore, if you want to have a good relationship with your siblings, you have to make efforts to keep your parents out of the conflict as much as possible!

That means rule number one is never tell on your siblings!

Because if you do so, no matter what you lose. Even if your parent intervenes on your side and punishes your sibling, your sibling will hate you for it and will get you back sometime in the future. In addition, it will create bad feelings between the two of you and you will both suffer. Even if your sibling does something to you that is unfair like hits you or breaks your things, you have to be resolved in your mind that you are going to work out the problem with your sibling on your own without involving your parents, because 99 percent of the time the parents are just going to make it worse! Furthermore, when your sibling offends you and you don't tell on him, that sibling will develop a great respect for you. He will think, “Wow, he could've really gotten me into trouble and he didn't. That's so nice and noble of him. I love him for it.” But everyone knows that tattling is an inherently low act. Everyone hates a tattler.

Even if your siblings tells on you sometimes, resist the temptation to get back by telling on them. Soon they will feel terribly guilty for telling on you since you never tell on them and they will stop, and your relationship will really flourish.

If your parents do intervene in sibling conflict and they do punish you, whether you deserved it or not, try not to get angry at your siblings or take revenge. Take your punishment like a champ. Your siblings will be in awe of you and will really look up to you for being so brave, and they will begin to treat you much more nicely. They will feel guilty for getting you in trouble unfairly, and they will like you even more.

Even if your siblings are bothering you and your parents on their own try to intervene on your side against your siblings, don't allow them to do that. Tell your parents, “It's Ok, I can take care of it, they were just kidding around.” You will prevent your siblings from getting in trouble and they will revere you for it. In addition, your parents will also have great respect for you when they see that you can handle your problems by yourself. One more amazing point is to always stick up for your siblings if they get in trouble, and try to make excuses and protect them from any punishment from your parents. Your siblings will really love you if you do that, and your parents will be overjoyed to see that you're so loyal to your siblings.

If your parents are constantly favoring your sibling over you and it's too much for you to handle,

then what you need to do is to wait until a time when everything is calm. Then very politely and respectfully approach your parents and inform them that you really respect their authority and their decisions, but you feel that they sometimes favor you sibling unfairly and it will help tremendously for you and your siblings to get along if they would try and treat you more fairly. Your parents will respect you for your wise and mature approach and they will be likely to respond positively.

Learning how to problem solve with your siblings or other children without adult involvement is a very great skill that will be very useful to you throughout school and for the rest of your life. It pays to develop it as much as possible at home. Remember you are very lucky to have siblings. For the rest of your life they can and should be a joy. The trick is to keep your parents out of it and from creating an imbalance in the relationship.

Parents can try explaining these principles to the children if they are too young to really read it.

For great tips on how to get kids to clean up, click here.

Feel free to peruse my interesting blog, download one of my informative free reports, or view my video. If you are struggling with how to encourage siblings to get along, and would like guidance from a child therapist in NYC, you may call me at 646-681-1707 for a complementary 15-minute consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!

For a fascinating discussion about why selfishness in children may not be as bad as you think, click here.

For more information on parenting counseling, click here.