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Siblings: How to Help them be Friends Forever


My children are upstairs in the room directly above me, putting together a puzzle and fighting. I just heard a loud whap. Now there is crying. Also screaming. Our sitter is issuing time-outs.

Ah, siblings. My kids, 22 months apart, are best friends more often than not. But the recent winter break tested their love, to put it mildly. By the end of two-weeks spent mostly in each other’s presence, a typical exchange had Older Sister declaring “I am SICK OF YOU,” followed by Younger Sister screaming “GET AWAY FROM ME! Just get AWAY from me!”

I find this horrifying.

Meanness—to your sibling, or anyone, ever—is not a happiness habit.

What to do? I know that most siblings fight, and that social scientists have consistently recorded high levels of hostility in sibling relationships relative to other relationships. But this is not okay with me; I want my kids to be kind to each other. My dad and his brother are lifelong best friends and business partners. My brother and I are close friends. I want this for my kids, too. But how?

Fortunately, we parents of multiple children have some good science to guide us. Here’s what I take away from this research.

  1. Treat kids fairly.
  2. Emotion Coaching is really important.
  3. Give them positive opportunities to play.
  4. Role-play positive responses to conflict.
  5. Think twice before intervening during a conflict

For details on the above five steps, see my post at the Greater Good Science Center blog.

For most parents, fostering close relationships between our kids is one of our greatest concerns. And rarely is the payoff as great as when kids get along well and love one another!

Do your kids get along well? If so, why? What have you done to foster sibling closeness?