Sibling Quibbling – Part II

Question (submitted to us by Parental Wisdom):

My children (ages 4 and 6) seem to fight all the time and I end up in the middle all the time. It is exhausting and I had a different vision of what it would be like having two boys close in age. This isn’t fun.

*Answer (posted also on

Here is the parenting principle for you – Set up for Success. Once you have that down pat, you will be on your way. The underlying reason for your troubles is sibling rivalry, and that is actually a positive survival mechanism for your children.

Given that, evaluate your trouble spots and see how you can better set up conditions for your boys so that they will have it easier to behave well. Here are a few possible improvements you might be able to make. Use any of these that will work and then create others to fit your needs.

  • Divide all toys by colors and use that distinction as an arbitrary way to settle toy disputes quickly and fairly.
  • Make a five minute rule for some toys and include a timer when necessary.
  • Designate a separate area in your playroom or house for each of your children separately to have total control.
  • If coming home from school is a problematic time, arrange it so that each of them arrive at different times. Depending on what your situation is, use whatever your resources are to help you–after school care, an activity for one child or the other, playing at a friend’s house for one of them, or some other creative way for you to be able to give one-on-one time to each child individually.

August! The Month of Dignity

Yes, it is very hard to keep giving your full attention to two children who need it at the same time. Once you get a handle on “setting up your home environment for success,” you will be able to avoid almost any kind of confrontation before it starts. How dignified is that?

What next? You will be well on your way to having the fun you always wanted.

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  1. Love those suggestions, Dr. Sally. One other thought to add: why not let the kids make some of the decisions or “rules” about fair playtime? How long each can play with a certain toy … who does what during cleanup … what’s a fair way to reward the winner, etc. Have this conversation in advance during a neutral time. Write the agreements down. Then post them on the wall. Even have the kids sign at the bottom. It can teach some skills and remind them they they made and agreed upon the rules!

  2. Wow! I love that touch. Of course, that is exactly how these helpful measures should be set up. Thank you Rosalind for this wonderful contribution. Working together is what family living is all about. Perfect!

  3. Great tips! I do not yet go through this problem as I have one child but I can make use of this with helping my baby learn to share her toys with cousins and children of visiting friends. This is a great rule to implement once she has a younger brother or sister in the near future too. Thank you Dr. Sally!

  4. Hi Janet,

    What a nice “vote of confidence!” Thank you very much for stopping by.

    I am glad that you found these ideas to be helpful. I think it is so interesting that sometimes just a small change can make a big difference.

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