Sibling Rivalry Solutions: The ingenious Restating technique

Are you tired or those constant sibling squabbles? Does your parental intervention just make it worse? Do you feel your kids just crave unlimited attention? Are you running out of sibling rivalry solutions? 


Sibling conflict is one of the tougher nuts to crack for us parenting specialists, but I’ve developed an amazing technique that has proven to be extremely helpful: I call it the restating technique.

Children in need of sibling rivalry solutions usually have several challenges they are dealing with. One is they feel frustrated that their point of view, needs, feelings and desires are not being heard and validated by their parents, siblings or anyone. Another is that they are understandably very self-centered and have no idea at all what the other child’s needs and point of views are, and this makes resolution difficult. Furthermore each child has great difficulty listening to the other and trying to help out his fellow because each is so preoccupied with his own needs. All this causes minor differences to inflame into big arguments.

However the restating technique resolves all 3 of the above issues. How does it work?


Basically, when you see an argument happening or you sense trouble brewing, you approach the children, picking the one who seems most aggrieved and ask him, “What is bothering you?” and the like, to get him to state what grievance he has with the other child. If he or she is not verbally forthcoming, then you need to suggest to him what you think may be bothering him, and see if he agrees to it. Then restate the grievance with the accompanying feelings to the other child: “Jimmy, Johnny is feeling really upset because he feels you took away his toy.” Notice you do not say, “…because you took away his toy,” because that would be accepting Johnny’s side as fact and taking his side. Instead you are just impartially expressing Johnny’s feelings to Jimmy, which he certainly has a right to have. Then listen and try to hear Jimmy’s response. He may say, “He had it for a long time and he never shares!” So then you restate back to Johnny, elucidating the feelings behind Jimmy’s position: “Jimmy feels upset because he says you don’t share enough and he deserved to have a turn.”

Then if Johnny shoots back, “He doesn’t share with me either!” restate that back to Jimmy, and continue restating each child’s position and feelings until you get to the root cause of the problem. It could be one child really wants more attention from his sibling and feels ignored, it could be one child feels that one parent favors the other, or it could be one sibling is being unfair and is mistreating the other.

The restating technique among sibling rivalry solutions accomplishes many amazing things.


It helps each child to verbalize his position and feelings, which already in itself brings some relief. Then when the child hears the adult restating his feelings, it makes him feel so important, “Wow look how the powerful adult recognized so well how I feel. That makes me feel important!” Not only that but when the adult restates the position so that the other child can hear it, the first child thinks, “Wow that’s great now even Jimmy is listening and understanding my feelings and needs!” You see when the authority figure restates things, the children tend to listen and give importance to what the adult is saying. Furthermore it actually gives each child conscious knowledge of each other’s feelings, along with the value judgement that, “Your brother’s needs and feelings are important and deserve consideration!” Now they are much more able to understand the situation and work towards a solution.

Very often this leads the children to just abandon their argument,


because their feeling so heard, validated and advocated for reduces their anger and frustration significantly, and they just continue playing happily. Or often it results in their coming up with their own compromise and solution, which is a great skill to learn. And if that doesn’t work, at least now the adult has much more clear information about what each child did, feels and needs so now the adult will be in a much better position to suggest a solution.

If after all this conflict still persists, the next step is to call a meeting, and get a pen and paper and ask the children to both make an exhaustive list of everything that’s bothering them, and then have each one brainstorm possible solutions. Then go through the written material out loud and give each one a chance to choose to implement one of the solutions. Usually after all this the anger and conflict will have greatly subsided, and all the attention and validation they are getting from the adult will have been extremely healthy and helpful.

If the restating technique does not work perfectly the first time, don’t give up on it keep trying and perfecting your skills, and email me for tips and feedback. 

There’s another great rule for sibling rivalry solutions, for conflict between an older one and a younger one.


When both sides seem balanced, and when it’s not clear who should be the winner, almost always you should favor the older one, and the results will be much more desirable. The younger one usually admires and looks up to the older one, and therefore often doesn’t mind so much losing to him, in other words favoring the older one is not likely to cause such hard feelings in the younger one. In addition he knows intuitively that the older one deserves more consideration just because of his age, so he won’t be so upset. But if you favor the younger one, the older one will almost always be enraged, indignant and jealous. He will plan to get back at his younger sibling and more conflict and bad feelings will ensue. The worst thing in a family is when the older sibling resents the younger because he feels his parents favor him. Therefore when in doubt, always give the edge to the older one, and it will develop in him a feeling of benevolence and generosity towards his younger sibling. He will think, “My parents favor me because I’m older and I deserve it. Therefore I will rise to fill my more important and responsible role and be kind to and take care of my younger sibling.”

Feel free to peruse my fascinating blog, view my videos, or download one of my informative free reports at the bottom of this page, and get on my email list. If you are seeking further sibling rivalry solutions, and feel I may be the right therapist to help you with either Play Therapy or Parenting Counseling, you may send me an email, or call me directly at 646-681-1707 for a complementary 15-minute consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!

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