Last Updated on April 11, 2018

I don’t think I’ve ever known a mom with several children who has not struggled with sibling rivalry.

Sibling rivalry is simply a given in a home with children. Sometimes we feel like we’ll scream if we hear one more fight erupt over a sibling disagreement, or one more nasty comment, or observe another ugly look. Will it ever end? Will these kids ever like one another? And will I survive?

It will end. But most likely not until their later teen years. And yes you will survive but it will take patience and the steady training of your children. One of the hardest things for moms is that we teach them over and over to be nice and we never seem to get anywhere. They still fight. It is so discouraging.

And it doesn’t help when we see “that other mother” and her children at the ball game and her kids are being nice to each other and ours are not. Once again we feel like a failure as a mom. Don’t worry; her kids aren’t perfect either!

Most often when we talk about sibling rivalry we discuss ways to handle it but today I want to share with you one concept that will help you be proactive in building friendships between your kids. I simply call it the “clue-in principle.”

One of our jobs as moms is to study our children.

How is a certain child packaged? What is her love language? What makes him feel valued? What are her gifts? (leadership, sensitivity to others, competitive, endurance, etc.). What outside pressures are impacting this child at this time?

You may have a young child who loves board games. Playing a game with this child communicates love. Another child might like to cook. Cooking with her brightens her day. Some kids respond to physical touch, others to doing something together.

We have the opportunity as the parent to clue our children in to each other’s needs (as appropriate) and then give them small assignments to care for one another. I remember when our daughter Allison was a young teen. One particular day she came in from school, slammed the front door, stormed into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator and exclaimed, “There’s never any food in this house!” Then she headed straight for her room and another door slammed.

Her wide-eyed young brother remarked, “What’s the matter with her?”

“Son,” I explained, “she’s having a hard time. She’s a teenager and right now she doesn’t feel too good about herself. Let’s make her some cookies and you draw a picture and write her a note that says, ‘I think you are the best sister.’ We can leave it outside her bedroom door so she will be surprised.”

Perhaps you have a son who played poorly in a game this week and is feeling discouraged. Tell his sister he’s having a hard time and suggest something specific she can do to brighten his spirits.

Our desire is that as our kids grow up, they will—on their own—begin to consider the needs of one another and take steps to encourage each other. Our long-range goal is that as adult siblings they will continue this practice of encouragement.

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