Turning sibling rivalry into something beneficial Part 1: Empowering kids to harmoniously achieve what they really want

sibling rivalry 1

Sick of the kids screaming, yelling, kicking, I certainly am.  This 3 part series is designed to help turn sibling rivalry into something constructive and teach your children valuable life skills at the same time.


Does this sound familiar? “Give me back my top! You always take things without asking.” “Mum! Peter called me dumb again.”“Stop hitting me! I am going to tell Mum!” I am sure you can add many examples to the list.  But, do you know there is a positive purpose behind EVERY behavior?  Yes, that’s right, a positive purpose behind EVERY behavior !


Behaving badly brings benefits

Everyone gets something out of everything that they do and this includes your kids. Of course, this is not condoning negative behaviour, but it is recognizing that on some level the person behaving ‘badly’ gets some benefit out of it. Often they are not consciously aware of what the benefit is, but it is true!


When your 13-year old is screaming at her younger sister about how annoying she is, as she slams the door in her face, she may not be aware that the positive purpose for her behaving this way is that she is trying to feel grown up and get attention.  Are there other ways to achieve this without being mean to her sister?  I think so!


Imagine teaching your child the incredible life skill of how to focus their energy into finding out and solving the real problem, where children learn:

  • there is a positive purpose for every behaviour;
  • how to identify what the positive purpose is; and
  • How to fulfil that purpose
  • Imagine if we all did that!


Arguments between siblings occur as one child uses the other to try to fulfil their positive purpose. For Example:

  • 11-year-old Johnny wants to feel clever or smart, so he constantly points out how ‘dumb’ his 9-year-old sister is.
  • 12-year-old Susie wants to feel grown up, so she keeps taking her 15-year-old sister’s things without asking.
  • 9-year-old David wants to feel well behaved, so he constantly points out everything his brothers and sisters are doing wrong.
  • 10-year-old Kirsty wants to be noticed, so she continually behaves badly to attract attention.


All these children are creating arguments with their siblings to achieve a positive purpose for themselves. However, they are unlikely to be aware that they are doing this for a larger purpose.


Teach your children how to focus their energy on the real problem:

  • Teach them how to find out what their positive purpose is and,
  • Assist them in finding ways to fulfill this purpose with new positive behaviors.

And watch the sibling rivalry drift away.  Sure…it might not be gone completely…but you will certainly notice the difference!


4 easy steps to find & fulfill the positive purpose:

1.   Talk to each child separately.  Ask: “What do you get from behaving in this way towards your brother/sister?”

I like to explain that everything everyone does has a positive outcome for them and if we find out what it is, we can find new ways to achieve it without behaving in a negative way.  This may be difficult for your child to answer at first, as it is a new way to think. Stick with it! Once they become used to asking this question it will become second nature and they will experience their life in a whole new way.

2.   Once they answer, ask again “And what does that get for you?”

Keep asking this until you reach what you believe is the ‘real’ positive purpose.  It may be “I want more attention from you.” “I want to feel important (by being included)” or “Feel like I belong.” “To be noticed.” “To feel clever.” Etc, etc.


3.   Assist your child to brainstorm new ways they could fulfil this positive purpose

Help them to identify new ways to get what they want and simultaneously allowing them to have a harmonious relationship with their sibling.  See how many new ways you can identify.


4.   Ask the child to choose one step they will put into action to fulfil their positive purpose in a new way.

  • Possible action steps for the examples above are:
    • Johnny could write down all the things he did each day that were really clever and share them with you.
    • Susie could re-design her room, be given some more responsibility or have a later bedtime.  It is important the parent help Susie fulfil her positive purpose of feeling more grown up. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation about what that would mean.  If not fulfilled, Susie will resort to the other behaviour.
    • David may decide to give himself a star every time he does something good and show you at the end of the day so that you can acknowledged his good behavior.
    • Kirsty may ask if she could have 5 minutes a day of your undivided attention.


Once children understand why they are fighting and what they really want, they will feel empowered and their communication will be more effective.


Over the next few weeks I will bring you more simple steps to turn the rivalry into harmony teaching your children how to communicate what they want without anger, upset or blame and how to help them become effective listeners.


Please be aware that the information is made available for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You must exercise your own due diligence before implementing any recommendation and/or purchasing any product. Judith-Rose Max and Happy Parenting are exempt of any and all responsibility associated with misuse or your own interpretation. Do not delay seeking medical or professional advice. You acknowledge and agree that the above warnings and disclaimers shall apply to all content and that you take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing.
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