#childsafety | I’m a clinical psychologist & mum-of-three – these are the three most effective ways to deal with sibling rivalry

FROM hogging the TV remote to locking your little brother in a cupboard, sibling rivalry can be quite the challenge for any parent.

But if you’re at your wits’ end and are at a loss as to how to deal with your bickering kids, then no fear.


Sibling rivalry can be tricky for any parent. Pictured, stock imageCredit: Getty
Dr Becky Kennedy (pictured) has revealed her top tips for coping with sibling rivalry3

Dr Becky Kennedy (pictured) has revealed her top tips for coping with sibling rivalryCredit: Melanie Dunea

In her new book Good Inside, Dr Becky Kennedy, who has helped millions of parents over the years in her role as a clinical psychologist, shares her parenting philosophy along with actionable strategies to help parents deal with various situations – including separation anxiety and tantrums.

Here, in an exclusive extract shared with Fabulous, the mum-of-three and author reveals her top tips on how to cope with sibling rivalry…

PNP Time or Play-No-Phone Time

“There is no strategy as important for healthy sibling relationships as PNP Time. The more secure a child feels with their parents, the more they view a sibling as a playmate, not a rival.

Our kids want our attention more than anything – it communicates that they’re safe, important, valuable, loved.

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PNP Time only takes 10-15 minutes.

The goal is to enter your child’s world, allow them to direct the
play and take time to witness and notice but not direct.

Being “Fair” vs. Individual Needs

Making things fair is one of the biggest propellants of conflict.

The more we work for fairness, the more we create opportunities for competition.

When your kid screams, ‘Not fair!’, work to shift his
gaze inward.

Don’t force this, model it. Instead of making things equal, label what’s happening inside your child: ‘It’s so hard to see your brother get new shoes. Can you get new ones? Not right now, sweetie.

In this family, every kid gets what they need – and your shoes are still in great shape. You’re allowed to be upset. I get it.’

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Allow Venting (but Only to You)

When your children know they can talk to you about their feelings toward their sibling(s), they become less likely to take out their feelings on their brother or sister.

Make it a point to tell your kids, ‘It’s okay to have many feelings about your new brother – happy, excited and sad or angry ones. All feelings are okay. Let’s talk about them.’

Step In When There’s Danger, Slow Down and Narrate When There’s Not

We want to teach our children to problem-solve with each other, not rely on us to judge who’s right and who’s wrong.

To do this, we must teach our kids to slow down when they’re activated; once kids regulate, they tend to be natural problem-solvers.

The exception is when there’s danger, and that means not only hitting, throwing, physical altercations and threats, but also verbal escalations that are cruel, involve name-calling, or emotional bullying.

In these situations, we must step in to protect both kids. Both kids need our help.

Step In – Dangerous situation

If there’s hitting or throwing or anything dangerous, step in with an ‘I won’t let you’ phrase – ‘I won’t let you hit me. You can hit the floor here.’

Once you’ve assured a child’s safety, stay and focus on your own breathing.

Your calm presence teaches them – they feel your regulation and borrow it to reground their bodies.

Slow Down and Narrate

Your goal here is to help your children build coping skills. The best thing you can do is lend your emotion regulation to their emotional escalation.

If there’s grabbing or fighting over the item, take it in your hands and share words like, ‘Ugh! Two kids and one fire truck! That’s tricky. I wonder what we could do’ and then pause and look curious – like you truly need your kids help solving this situation.

Your children may not come up with an idea, but what you’re doing is critical – you’re wiring pause, reflection and connection after escalation and arguments, which gets stored in their bodies to help them in the future.”

Good Inside – A Practical Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Dr Becky Kennedy is published by Thorsons, £14.99 paperback

Good Inside – a Practical Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Dr Becky Kennedy is out now3

Good Inside – a Practical Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Dr Becky Kennedy is out nowCredit: Melanie Dunea

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