“Shut up!”

“”No, you shut up!”

“Get out of my room!”

“You can’t use that, it’s mine!”

How do you spell headache? A lot of parents spell it: Sibling problems.

Think back to the day your second child was born. That was the day you became a parent of siblings. Do remember the wonderful hopes and dreams you had for your growing family? You could picture your kids holding hands and running joyously through the meadow, laughing and giggling all the way.


I’ve got good news for you. You do not have to settle for unfriendly, hurtful sibling behavior and simply accept it as an unavoidable status quo. I have heard many parents say to me, “Well, that’s just how they are.”


That is how they have learned to be.

Now, I know that your kids all have different personality styles, strengths and weaknesses, and so on. Some are more easygoing and others have a more difficult temperament. However, even with your kids’ various personality styles, they all can learn. They all develop habits.

And that is most likely what you are experiencing right now: Bad sibling habits.

So, where is the good news I mentioned earlier? It is in the word habit. I want to remind you that bad habits can be changed into good ones. But it will require some guidance from you. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling with your kids:

1) Talk together as a family. Have a family meeting where you all talk about the kind of family you want to be. Make a list of words to answer the question: What kind of family do we want to be? (loving, fun, respectful, get along, etc.). Agree together that your family goal is to become this kind of family.

2) Make a list of Do’s. Make a list of positive family behaviors that will help your family reach its goal. Behaviors could include doing fun things together, talking respectfully, asking before using others’ belongings, taking turns, being considerate of others, sharing, etc.

3) Make a list of Don’ts. Make a list of behaviors that get in the way of reaching your family goal. You are not singling anyone out, but are being candid and honest about behaviors that anyone (even parents) can display that are disrespectful to others or result in anger and disruption in your family. The list could include shouting, name-calling, putdowns, hitting, taking others belongings without permission, teasing, etc.

4) Have regular family meetings. Use these meetings to review and update your Do/Don’t lists and to talk about your family’s progress. If there is a recent or current sibling problem that comes up, use this meeting to talk it through in a calm and respectful way. This is your chance to show your kids how to solve problems the right way. You can also take time to do a fun activity, talk about what is happening in everyone’s life, and to pray together as a family.

5) Require respect. Make it clear to your kids that they all are extremely loved and valuable, not just to God, but to you. As a result, it is not okay for them to hurt each other with their words or actions. Choices to do so will result in negative consequences. Period.

These steps will help you get things moving in the right direction. If you need more help, please see my book, Keep the Siblings, Lose the Rivalry. If things are really chaotic, it may be time to visit a family therapist to help you get things moving in the right direction.

Either way, you CAN help your kids replace bad sibling habits with good ones. Your whole family will be glad you did.

What negative sibling behavior do your kids display?

How have you helped your kids get along better?

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Debra Timmons wrote:
I am definitely purchasing your book "Keep the Siblings, Lose the Rivalry." Already saved it to Christianbook.com.

I am that parent who had a dream that her family would all get along, that her children would be wonderful, Godly children, and that they would treat each other and us with respect. I do have three smart kids (11, 13, and 15) who are all Christians, but they fight all the time. Our entire house is loud and chaotic. I'm hoping your book will tame some of this chaos. A few years ago I knew that God had called me to write, but since I work full time, I have to do my writing at home. Satan has spent years using the chaos in our family to put a halt to that plan. We've also had some financial difficulties that's made it difficult for us to take even short vacations or do other things together rather than stay under one roof staring at each other all day.

I know that I'm as much at fault in this situation as my kids and my husband. We truly need to put greater emphasis on making God the center of our home. Maybe then the chaos will cease.

Wed, September 11, 2013 @ 12:53 PM

2. Todd wrote:
Hi Debra,
If your kids fight a lot, I trust you will find many helpful ideas in my sibling book. Your kids are the perfect age to discuss The Family Respect Rule and how you all can all apply it to your family.
Best wishes,

Wed, September 11, 2013 @ 1:07 PM

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