A Cure for Sibling Rivalry

A Cure for Sibling Rivalry

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Dr. Laura Markham’s new book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, is the path to sibling harmony

A remedy for sibling rivalry? Yes, please! As any parent of siblings knows, there is nothing quite as draining, disappointing, and disruptive (not to mention irritating) as listening to your kids bicker. So you’ll be glad to hear that a remedy’s within reach, according to Dr. Laura Markham.

The acclaimed author of Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids and founder of popular parenting website Aha Parenting! has found the path to sibling harmony, and she details it in her new book Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings. Markham’s approach, which stems from a foundation in positive discipline, is firmly rooted in research. Her acknowledgment of the challenging realities of parenting makes her writing refreshing and relatable. It’s a fast, succinct read, packed with useful tips.

According to Markham, the key to raising siblings who get along is the same as raising kids who are happy and healthy in general. She argues that how you parent each child individually profoundly impacts how the siblings relate to each other. The three main tenets to her parenting philosophy are:

  1. Stay connected to your kids
  2. Regulate emotions
  3. Coach kids instead of controlling them

Of course, as with anything, the devil is in the details. Here are some of Markham’s specific sibling-related strategies:


  • Love each one best. Have special one-on-one time with each child daily. If each child truly feels valued and treasured, Markham maintains, he or she won’t harbor resentment and jealousy.
  • Roughhousing can be a great way to connect. It helps kids release anxiety and stress, which otherwise might be unloaded on their siblings.

Regulating emotions

  • Calm yourself first. Your children will react to conflict (especially with each other) the way you do, so it’s important to be composed before responding to a sibling fight.
  • Empathize with your child’s feelings. Markham says this is absolutely critical to developing self-regulation, the parent-child bond, and sibling harmony.
  • Teach kids self-calming strategies for when they’re angry (rock out to music, write in a journal, do jumping jacks) so they don’t lash out at siblings.
  • Help kids express the underlying cause of their anger so you’ll get to the root of the issue and resolve it without sibling resentment.

Coach, don’t control

  • Offer firm but loving guidance rather than punishments (this includes time-outs). A punitive culture leads to sibling rivalry, she explains.
  • Don’t take sides. Instead, coach kids through collaborative problem solving.
  • Instead of demanding that kids share, have them take turns (they decide the duration).
  • Create a house rule of kindness and respect. If someone breaks this rule, he or she is expected to repair the relationship with a heartfelt apology card, with a favor, or by helping to fix the problem he or she helped create.

Nicole C. Kear, is the author of Now I See You: A Memoir, recently published by St. Martin’s Press. Kear, who lives in New York City, is also an editor, speaker, and mother of three.

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