It Isn’t Luck When Siblings Get Along

Handling Sibling Bickering

Siblings cannot get along perfectly all the time. Even the sweetest children bicker with their siblings. But, if children see how their caregivers appropriately handle conflicts then common sibling bickering can actually help teach sisters and brothers how to resolve conflicts, share, problem-solve, manage frustration, compromise, and to respect others.

Here are some ways to handle sibling bickering:

1. Ignore Them: If you hear siblings bickering first determine if you should ignore them and let the children work out the problem themselves.

2. Encourage Sharing: Typically siblings argue about sharing. They argue that their sister or brother is using their personal toys without asking first or when the other sibling does not share with them. If necessary use a common kitchen timer and pick a time allotment for each toy. For example, tell the children they each get five minutes with the toy. See how to encourage sharing by clicking here. Learn even more about getting children to share by clicking here.

3. Are They Tired, Bored, or Hungry? If the bickering continues, determine if one of the child’s basic needs are not being met. For example, if a child is tired, hungry, or bored all you may need to do is give the kids a break, some lunch, and a fun game or craft project to do.

4. Are They Jealous? Sibling rivalry is caused by jealousy. To reduce jealousy between siblings make an effort to listen to them and empathize with how they feel.

5. Do They Feel Ignored? Children often misbehave to gain attention or power. A child would rather be bad to get attention than to be ignored. Although the youngest child often requires more attention from the nanny, it is important to make time to play and listen to each child individually.

6. Do Not Take Sides: Taking sides just increases sibling rivalry. Many nannies and au pairs think they know who causes most of the sibling conflicts, (usually the older sibling). But, unless the caregiver is in the room and actually sees what started the bickering, the nanny or au pair should not take sides. If one child needs to go to their room, then send them all to their rooms. If a sister or brother misbehaves and both are sent to their rooms, they will become more willing to resolve their conflicts themselves.

6. Use Positive Reinforcement: To encourage good behavior provide the children with activities they can do together. Always positively reinforce children for appropriate behavior. Tell them how proud you are of them for sharing and playing nicely together. To learn more about positive reinforcement click here. Learn more about positive discipline by clicking here. See more creative ways to encourage children to behave by clicking here. There are even more ideas for rewarding good behavior by clicking here. For older children consider these ideas.

7. Listen: Listen to each child and validate their feelings, no matter how trivial it may seem to an adult. Each child should know you understand their feelings even when you may not agree with their actions

8. Never Yell: Nannies must model appropriate behaviors. The nanny must practice what she preaches. Yelling at children to stop yelling does not work. Nannies need to remain calm and tell children what they want them to do.

9. Punishment: Inappropriate behaviors such as hitting, breaking things, swearing, and name-calling should never be tolerated from children and using punishments may be necessary. Caregivers can allow children to help create a punishment chart so the children know ahead of time what consequences will result from bad behavior. “Time-outs” can also be used for to help calm children down during a conflict.

If nannies and au pairs can help siblings develop a loving relationship not only will it make their jobs easier but they will be most precious to the parents and they will be most appreciative.

Do the siblings you care for bicker? What do you do about it?


  1. Bribery in the form of a system of rewards and consequences works for me. I know, I know, the word “bribe” sounds terrible. But if I tell the toddler he can get a sticker on his sticker chart if he shares with his sister it works. I sometimes say if they share they can choose dessert later. I bribe them with something good if they do something good.Nanny Melissa in Maryland

  2. I give myself a time out! The kids argue constantly. Unless they are hurting one another I walk away so I don’t have to hear it (not walk away where I don’t hear them. I mean I walk away from the playroom to the kitchen to take a break). They get are much less upset with the constant arguing than I am. So if they don’t mind I am starting to learn to take myself away from the situation and let them solve their problems themselves.

  3. I agree that sharing is the biggest problem between siblings. I know one time on this blog I read about playing the game “Sharing” especially with young kids too young to understand the concept of sharing (under 4 yrs old).When you’re playing “sharing” show children how to take turns. Whenever you play with a child teach the concept of taking turns and sharing. He adds a block, then you add one. At cleanup time take turns putting the toys away. When reading take turns turing the pages.Meredith in Bay Area Califronia

  4. Most important thing is not to yell at the children when they fight. Arguing is a part of growing up and we can’t teach kids to fight and argue. We can gently guide sibligns through conflicts when the kids can’t work it out themselves. We have to teach them to communicate properly by asking for things rather than hitting, shoving, or yelling. them hone the skills they need to communicate. If the adults stay calm in the middle of conflict and help kids learn to communicate appropriately the kids will learn and follow our example.Seattle Nanny

  5. I am a nanny in Austin TX and the children are so mean to their brothers and sisters. I see most nannies and mothers yelling at children and grabbing things away from them when they misbehave. I urge others to stop that trend. When people live in the same home they can’t always get along. Children aren’t mature enough to cope with their feelings correctly so we must show them how to act. Always be soft spoken. Never side with either child. Each child is an individual.Nanny Linda in Austin

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