How to Encourage Siblings to Get Along

Sibling rivalry isn’t inevitable. Many kids CAN develop a strong bond. Here’s how to encourage siblings to get along, even from a young age.

How to Encourage Siblings to Get AlongIt took my eldest several weeks to adjust to his new brothers. I don’t blame him, either—the change was hard enough for us, and we knew what we were getting into.

Still, I wanted my kids to have a good sibling relationship—one that doesn’t have to wait until they’re older to benefit from.

You see, I never liked the stereotype of siblings fighting, bullying, or tattling on one another. Instead, I want my kids to grow up to be one another’s best friends throughout adulthood. I truly do think it’s possible, and that they’re on their way there.

Perhaps you also want to nurture a genuine friendship among your little ones. If so, check out how to encourage kids to get along right from the start:

How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Baby

1. Don’t solve all their sibling conflicts

Even at a young age, my kids have gotten into arguments with another other, from vying for the same toy to getting into each other’s spaces.

Still, I don’t step in unless needed. Instead, I observe and see how they’ll handle the situation. In most cases, they end up resolving the issue, from figuring out how to play with the same toy together to one of them realizing it’s not worth the trouble.

Yes, step in when things get physical, like when a toy might hit someone’s head or they’re about to hurt each other. Otherwise, let kids resolve their own social conflicts as much as possible.

If you do need to step in, offer solutions instead of outright solving their problems. For instance, “sportscast” and describe what’s happening, and prod them for suggestions. “She wants to stand next to you but you look like you want your space. What do you think you can do?” This can help them develop problem-solving skills to handle matters on their own.

And don’t make a big deal about it. Jumping in with solutions or refereeing can escalate it into a bigger problem than it needs to be. Like I say in my ebook, Parenting with Purpose:

“Yes, it’s uncomfortable watching your kids struggle. We feel compelled to be peacemakers and bring order right away. The problem with resolving their conflict is they don’t get to learn from their interaction. You’re not able to teach them valuable social skills like waiting, turn-taking, and sharing.”

Children's Social Conflicts

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2. Treat toys as communal property

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We assume kids will get along much better if we define which item belongs to whom. No fighting over the same toys, right?

Instead, studies found that scarcity leads to cooperation. The fewer toys kids have, the more they’re forced to find a way to play with one another.

Other than setting boundaries with a few cherished items, one of your family rules might be that most toys belong to everyone. Don’t ask your kids if their siblings can use their toys (“Can he play with your fire truck?”). This eliminates the “This is mine!” possessiveness that can often trigger a fight.

And find collaborative games where all the kids are on the same side and practice teamwork. One of our favorite board games is Race to the Treasure. Rather than the kids competing with each other, they work together to “beat the ogre.”

3. Don’t force kids to share

Ideally, kids will share on their own, but to demand them to do so isn’t fair. Instead, encourage them to take turns or play together. Let’s say one child wants to play with something that the other one has. Tell them to decide how to play with each other or to take turns.

If a struggle is about to happen, guide them to a solution. You might track whose turn it is to press the button, or ask one child to scoot over so the other one could have some space to play too.

Forcing them to share gets the job done, but begrudgingly. Instead, nurture a genuine desire to share.

4. Let your older child teach

My 4 year old was playing with a guitar when he shrieked, “He’s climbing on me!” He didn’t know what to make of his baby brother crawling on his lap, drawn by the music.

“Oh, it looks like he wants to play too. Show him how to play the guitar.”

The boy who, a second ago was recoiling from his baby brother, was now saying, “See? You pull it like this,” and teaching him how to pluck the strings.

Any time your eldest is on the verge of getting upset, tell her that her younger sibling wants to learn from her. Lecturing or telling her to calm down misses an opportunity for them to play with and learn from one another.

Being a teacher can make her feel more mature. Teaching also lets her take back the power she sometimes loses for being a child. Now, she’s the “big kid” who has a thing or two to teach her little brother.

5. Don’t let your older child “parent”

While older kids have more privileges and responsibilities, they also shouldn’t “parent” their siblings the same way you do.

Sure, you want your eldest to look out for her little brother, but she shouldn’t have the same authority as you do. After all, her role isn’t to be a parent but to be a big sister.

If you catch her disciplining him, tell her to stop. It’s not her place to discipline, and you wouldn’t want her siblings to resent her for that. Instead, thank her for letting you know what’s going on, and leave the parenting to you.

6. Let your older child help

Since your older child can’t “parent,” encourage her to help. She can put baby bottles away or push her brother on his trike. Tell her on many occasions how helpful she is.

You can even combine asking for her help with play time. One of the ways my eldest helped with the twins was keeping one company while I bathed the other. I placed one baby in his crib, and my eldest would play peek-a-boo with him. Not only did my eldest help me by keeping the baby entertained, but he also played with his brothers.

7. Don’t tolerate meanness

Inevitably, kids won’t get along all the time. Even if we encourage a sibling bond, they can still be downright mean to one another. That’s when we step in and prevent the animosity from getting any worse.

I don’t mind kids arguing or resolving their conflicts, but I do step in if they’re acting unfairly. I might say, “We don’t talk like that to one another,” or “Please ask him nicely.”

Encourage respect and have zero tolerance for hurtful words. They can disagree, but they must do so with respect.

8. Praise your kids when they’re getting along

Praise your kids when you see them getting along on their own. (“You guys look like you’re having so much fun playing trains together!”) Give them a smile when you see them laughing. Acknowledge that they helped each other with chores or shared their popcorn during family movie night.

Show them how happy they make their siblings or how spending time together can be a positive experience. They can learn how their actions can bring joy to others.

Of course, don’t over-praise to the point where they do things just to get your attention. After all, sibling harmony should be a normal part of life, not a novelty. Still, a good way to establish positive behavior and healthy relationships is to praise your kids when they get along.


Despite the stereotypical “sibling rivalry,” you can encourage a good relationship among your kids during early childhood, no matter their ages.

Don’t solve all their conflicts, force them to share, or allow them to be mean to one another. Instead, treat toys as communal property and praise the times when they do get along. Encourage your older child to teach and help younger siblings instead of “parenting” them on your behalf.

Sibling harmony isn’t only about making sure no one is fighting, keeping tabs on whose toy is whose, or forcing them to share. Instead, developing a strong sibling bond that lasts over a lifetime is when each child feels a genuine love for his or her siblings—right from the start.

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  1. Hi Nina, I don’t know where to start but here goes. Reading your blogs, books and videos have been a ray of hope in my world. My situation seams to always never quit fit the examples you are discussing. Comes close but takes drastic turn and before i get to the end, my situation has taken off in different direction. Leaving me asking, Yes but what if this happens instead…? Do you ever make appointments to talk one on one with desperate mother?
    My beautiful 4 year old daughter is horrific to her brother. She has become so spiteful to me and defiant. It’s really heartbreaking. I am losing such precious time trying to help her get past this. I am in uncharted waters, and after trying everything I could, I’m now just treading water. Day in and day out she just becomes more explosive, aggressive, hurtful, and vendictive toward her brother. My heart is so heavy, I’m her mom and I can’t seam to help her get past this. I know she isn’t happy either and is struggling. My patience is running thin. I stay up nightafter night running sinerio over and over again to try and see what I could have done different that might have been the result trying to accomplish…but nothing. This started when my son started walking, aliitle before one. He will be 3 in Oct. They are 18 months apart. heart is truely heavy. I just die inside when she hurts her brother and he falls to the floor crying. I have gotten to where I feel all I do is protect him from her. At school her teachers report she is so sweet and perfect.
    What do I do????? Hopeful, Mary

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Mary, big hugs <3 It's rough when we see our kids being mean to each other. It can definitely trigger something in me as I want to protect the "victim."

      One thing I would make sure to do is to spend plenty of one-on-one time with your daughter, even if in little pockets throughout the day. Is there a chance you can take her out just you and her for the day? Could her brother sleep earlier so that you can snuggle with a book before bedtime? Maybe she's feeling like she's losing you to him, and she's taking her resentment out on him.

      I would also talk to her when she's calm, not necessarily right after she did something mean. Once she's calm, you can ask her why she did what she did and point out potential triggers (for instance, did she hit him because she felt like he was taking her toy?). This can help her feel validated and heard. Even if the behavior was wrong, you can still honor the impulses that drove her to do it.

      Then, point out different ways she could respond when she feels that way. Could she say "stop" or come and get you or walk away? And finally, help her start seeing things from his point of view. You might say, "You wouldn't like it if someone did that to you."

      I hope that helps, Mary! Thanks so much for your kind words as well.