top of page

Sibling Rivalry: Plan Ahead


What is It?

Thanksgiving. A time of families and fun, relaxation and rest. Ah yes, except when the kids start going at each other, and my blood goes from warm to boiling in 3.2 seconds. Managing sibling struggles and trying to explain that fair is not always equal and equal does not mean fair were never strengths of mine. I think deep down I was crossing my fingers that they’d grow out of it. Wrong. Old patterns die hard.

As with all behavior it’s helpful to understand the belief behind the behavior. Usually, according to Meg Glick, LMSW, WSEd, “a lot of siblings’ fights are about trying to get attention or something tangible, like a toy…Kids fight over limited access to things they want.” And, yes, chez moi, in their late teens and early twenties, we are still fighting over the front seat!

How to Address It? Get ahead of it. That is so often the answer; plan before the problem shows up. Think schedules, strategies, systems. For example, going back to my front seat example, the night before we could literally pick straws and together decide who goes when, where. I roll my eyes just thinking about it. I mean, can’t they just be adults about it? Wrong answer. Instead I need to contemplate how much I appreciate not only the calm but also not having to solve the squabble when each one is delivering a thesis on why she deserves the best seat.

Your Script in Action:

  • For younger kids, timers for turn-taking or clear visual schedules often work well, says Glick. “The idea is that they need a way to anticipate what’s coming next.”

  • For older kids, planning it out ahead of time and even signing it or sticking it to the refrigerator is enormously helpful. (Despite my kids being older, a car schedule on the fridge would have worked wonders.)

  • As they move into teenage-dom, if you’ve practiced this in the past, they will begin automatically solving it on their own. And if they are veering off course, a simple nudge may be all you need: “Sounds like the front seat is a battle again. Do you have some ideas that we could use to work towards a solution?”

GOT A MINUTE? Think of one or two conflicts that are going to be inevitable over Thanksgiving. In a calm moment, engage your family to come up with a concrete plan. And yes, write it down. Trust me, everyone will feel calmer: you, because you don’t have to hear with it and/or deal with it and them, because they don’t have to fight for it.


bottom of page