Help with sibling rivalry

Do your children bicker? Are you trying to cope with incessant squabbling? Are you tempted to have them go outside in -20 degree temps just to have a moment or two of peace in the house? Do you feel like they’ll never get along?

Helping our children deal with sibling rivalry

We’ve had our seasons of not getting along among our children. “Mom, he’s …”, “Mom, she said …”, “Mom, he won’t let me …”, “Mom …” it seemed to never end! There have been times that I wished I had hair so I could pull it out. With this bitingly cold winter and cabin fever at a fever pitch, I thought this would be a good time to share some things we’ve done in years past when our children seriously struggled to get along.

Take the Offense!

So often we find ourselves on the Defense. We explain, complain, discipline and sometimes even lose our tempers. But we are reacting rather than being proactive. We are dealing with the behavior in the aftermath rather than working on building godly character to help ward off the bad behavior.

The #1 thing we have found to help our children (and ourselves) in building godly character is The Word. Surprise, surprise! There is a wealth of power in the midst of those pages. In fact, we tended to use the scriptures to instruct in all the character issues our children were struggling with. When our children were in the midst of a horrible pattern of disrespect and bickering with one another, there were 4 passages of scripture we used to help teach them. 2 were positive and 2 were negative. We had our children memorize these passages. It is amazing how much the Holy Spirit worked through the scriptures being built into their hearts. These are the passages:

  • James 4:1-10
  • Gen 4:1-12
  • 1 John 3:10-22
  • 1 Cor 13:4-7

Second thing was using the scriptures to evaluate behavior.

We had our children keep a Fight List. Every time they had a fight with a sibling, they had to write it down. Then we sat down each day and walked through the fight and examined it against the James 4 passage to see where their bickering fit in. YIKES! Talk about convicting! It was wonderful to see the Spirit reach into their hearts, melt away any hardness and bring conviction and repentance. We sometimes forget the  power of the Word in the hearts and minds of our children.

This also helps them learn from an early age that it is the Lord who works changes in their lives; not Mom and Dad, not fear of punishment, not their own will power. But the Word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword!

Teach conflict resolution skills.

We don’t want to just discipline for bad behavior, we want to teach GOOD behavior. This is not as easy as it sounds. And it takes work on our part. We need to actually teach them how to respond. We walk through practice times with the 2 children in conflict, doing role play and giving them specific things to say. Like a script. We also ask each child what the other one said that drove them nuts and asked them to come up with an alternative that wouldn’t irritate. We’d practice this dialogue several times until they both had a better understanding (and the beginning of building habits) on how to say things better the next time.

We’ve actually had things to say written out on index cards at times. We’d take those cards and start a practice session. I have found that practicing during a non-conflict time is very very helpful. It can actually turn the practicing into fun.

Build a household of joy and laughter.

building a household of joy

Are WE finding joy in life? Are WE filled with laughter and delight in the Lord? Are WE setting the tone in our homes of praise? Do we have praise music playing often in the home? For years, every morning the children would come down to me loudly playing praise music. One of their favorites was “Praise Ye The Lord” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. They would have me play it over and over and they’d sing and dance and spin. It’s just a good thing this was before breakfast! 😀 When we have built praise and joy as a part of our normal family life, it really isn’t that difficult to restore things back to joy when discord rises up.

And don’t let this throw you. If we take this in our stride and deal with it matter-of-factly, without anger or placing blame, we found that the respect factor between us and the children isn’t disturbed. Our jobs are to help our children draw closer to the Lord and to let them follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

What ways have YOU found to deal with sibling rivalry?

women helping women link-up

(images courtesy of imagerymajestic and chrisroll/

You May Also Like…

Jehovah – I AM WHO I AM

Jehovah – I AM WHO I AM

Jehovah - the Great I AM God introduced Himself to Moses back in Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and...


  1. We are in the thick of this stage 🙂 There is so much you’ve mentioned that we’ve been doing, and I’ve found Tedd Tripp’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart to be one of the most useful resources in getting to the heart behind the action when there is trouble. My daughters have found the role-playing to be great (and mostly fun) and I’m now beginning to see the fruit of rehearsing over and over…and…over…! God has taught me a great deal about His own patience toward me through this season.

    Thank you for the helpful post & for being faithful to host the link-up!

    • Excellent, Lisha!! We have done the practicing in so many areas of our lives (both in raising our children and in me re-calibrating how I speak to my husband 😀 ) and find it to be very helpful and you are right, mostly fun!)

      Thanks for sharing your successes! Blessings, sis!

  2. Our kids really never had a huge fight or anything, but they did get on each other’s nerves from time to time, lol! Bickering as all kids seem to do. I think the fact that they were four years apart was the reason that they got along pretty well. But as I said, there were those moments……

    If they were bickering and just getting on each other’s nerves, we would usually put them in a time-out together. They had to sit on the couch (no talking) and hold hands for ten minutes. They hated it so it worked very well, lol!

    However, before the time was up they would be smiling and laughing. I suppose they started making faces at each and eventually made each other laugh.

    I also had them stand nose to nose one time when they were bickering. The older one hated it but the younger loved it so I couldn’t use it again, haha! Sometimes I would have them work on a chore together, such as washing windows, if they were having trouble getting along. Thanks for hosting today!

    • Normally we only ever have the normal bickering and squabbling, but there was a time when several children were really not getting along. After much prayer the Lord helped us to help them learn how to handle their differences in a much more godly way. They are all really great friends now, which is such a joy!

      Thanks for sharing Nan and for jumping in!

  3. Good tips I will probably need in the near future! Thanks for hosting the link=up! 🙂

    • Thanks Jenni. Hope you have a blessed day!

  4. We have had less of this as a problem than I thought we would, but in the last two years, it seems the Lord is allowing more discord as the now grown children are going their separate ways most days…it is harder now that it used to be since the calender is always full.
    I would like more rest and down time for all of us. I wish that www would just get destroyed or disabled somehow and we’d revert to life 30 years ago 🙂 Life would be much less complex…IMHO!!
    Thank you for the link-up, Kate.

    • Jacqueline, I’m with you on the less complicated life of techno-break! And I’ve found that the more our children are ‘connected’, the easier it is for cranky attitudes

  5. We will have to try that “fight list.” My two oldest get into screaming matches all. day. long. It’s rarely over anything that isn’t petty, but they refuse to just BE QUIET and listen to what it is the other one wants so they can have an actual conversation about it. Instead, they just scream over top of each other until *I* am ready to scream.

    The list might be more effective than other approaches we’ve tried because it tackles the issues at a more neutral moment.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *