More on Sibling Struggles

Tanya Kemp

Sibling Struggles 2

Siblings relationships are of the most significant we have throughout our lives. Whether they are good or bad, they leave imprints that can’t be erased. They impacted us as kids and continue to impact us as adults.  They even impact how we parent our kids, particularly in relation to our own children’s sibling struggles. 

Given the significance of sibling relationships, it is no wonder then that when we are confronted with our children’s animosity towards each other, we can begin to take the conflict personally. Our own issues around how we experienced our childhood come to the surface and we get triggered. We can easily go to a place of ‘I’m failing as a parent’ and/or become very controlling, thinking we have to ‘sort it out’, be fair and punish as necessary. 

Research shows us that none of these mindsets really work. Our children look at us to show them how to resolve conflict. They mimick us. It is possible to model and guide in an empathic way while we still set limits. 

It feels important to all of us that our children will be close to and look out for each other. The idea of siblings being best friends is an ideal most parents strive for. We don’t often see that in these early years though. So, here is the challenge:

Instead of worrying about your kids becoming friends, begin to instead think about how to equip them with the attitudes and skills they’d need for all their caring relationships. Instead of getting hung up on figuring out who was right and who was wrong, focus on moving them on to really learning the value of listening to each other, respecting differences between them and find ways to resolve those differences. Help them to recognise their own dysregulation in the face of conflict and equip them with the art of awareness and tools to address that dysregulation. Even if your children’s personalities are such that they could never be friends, at least they will have the knowledge, experience and skills to make friends and be a friend.  


Reflect with your partner about how your current approach in dealing with sibling rivalry and fights/bickering is setting your child up for future success in sibling and other relationships. Do you make use of punishment, figuring out who was right and who was wrong? How does this tie in with how you were raised? How is your response working for you?


Family Cookbook: Collect about 8 or 10 recipes that are favourites of the family. Include at least one favourite of each family member, even if the others don’t care for the dish. Include some that kids can make on their own and have dishes for breakfast, lunches, dinners and treats. Parents may type recipes and kids may draw pictures to illustrate. Put them together in a book and title it with your family name(s). Display proudly and use often! You may even share it with other family members or friends as a gift. 

The book can be added to as kids grow older. Cooking is an important life skill, a fantastic RDI activity, and a great way to stay connected. Including recipes that may be one person’s favourite while another in the family don’t care for it, teaches compromise, negotiation and accepting/understanding differences. Each person feels seen and valued with their recipe/favourite included as part of the whole book .

Side note: This obviously won’t be done and dusted today. Let it become part of a fun project to work on during the weeks ahead at home. For today, perhaps take ONE step towards starting ☺


Stop and let yourself do absolutely nothing for three breaths (right now as you’re reading this).

With each successive breath focus on:

  1. Remove your tongue from the top of your mouth
  2. Relax your jaw
  3. Relax your shoulders down and away from your ears

(Do this whenever you remember throughout the day)