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“Stop Fighting!” Four Books to Help Parents Find Peace at Home

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What starry-eyed parent-to-be doesn’t dream of children who play nicely together, brothers and sisters who will back each other up, siblings who will be one another’s person.

Then child number two arrives home. And reality hits.

The once sweet toddler becomes grumpy and extra demanding—especially during baby’s feeding time. A couple of years later, crying fits have morphed into shouting matches, and the lines “He’s not sharing!” or “She hit me!” become frequent refrains. In adolescence, bickering and teasing can become downright combative, with raging hormones adding fuel to the fire. At all ages, siblings are competing for attention, power, and control.

Sibling rivalry may well be inevitable; it is certainly common. But surely, not all kids go at it like yours do, right? Is there any way to make it better?

Of course, how close siblings are in age, and the basics of personality play into it, but there are a few rivalry red flags that shouldn’t be ignored:

If the fighting is…

  • almost constant.
  • damaging to self-esteem and confidence.
  • damaging to the relationship with the sibling and/or the parent(s).
  • ongoing over the years.
The relationship your children have with each other may be the longest relationship they have in their lives

The relationship your children have with each other may be the longest relationship they have in their lives. As such, teaching siblings to value and respect each other is a worthwhile endeavor. Siblings who navigate rivalry in a healthy way learn tolerance, conflict management skills, and the ability to share. And they gain a life-long friend in the process.

Whether you are thinking long-term, or simply going crazy right now with your kids’ fighting, here are some books that can help break the exasperating patterns of sibling rivalry.


Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings

Targeting parents of babies and toddlers, this step-by-step guide teaches parents (mothers in particular) how to respond to outburst and sibling fights with empathy instead of anger or authoritarianism. It’s one thing to know intellectually that patience is key to parenting, but when we’re short on energy or patience ourselves, it can be hard to remember what to do differently. Markham’s emphasis is on the emotional bond between parent and child as the foundation on which all other relationships can be built. The specifics laid out in this book help parents to practice more effective dynamics, with scripts of how handle common situations. There is also a large section on how to prepare an only child for the arrival of his or her sibling.

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Understanding Sibling Rivalry - The Brazelton Way

Ninety-nine-year-old T. Berry Brazelton is one of America’s best-known pediatricians. He founded and ran the Child Development Unit, a pediatric training and research center at Children's Hospital in Boston, was a professor of pediatrics at Harvard, and authored more than two hundred scholarly papers and twenty-four books. In other words, he knows what he’s talking about. Together with child psychiatrist Joshua D. Sparrow, Brazelton takes a thorough look at sibling rivalry, breaking it down age by age, and aspect by aspect. The chapter on “common challenges” covers everything from adopted siblings and twins to competition in school and miscarriages. Whatever your situation, Brazelton is sure to have seen it, and have advice on how to handle it.

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Siblings Without Rivalry

There’s a reason this book has been in print for 30 years (and it’s not just because kids don’t stop fighting). Siblings Without Rivalry is the gold standard in handling competition and contests between siblings. Faber and Mazlish guide parents on when to intervene in sibling fights and when to ignore, and how to redirect hostility into healthier channels. In addition to studying child psychology (and being parents themselves), Faber and Mazlish have run countless parenting workshops and this edition incorporates more of those experiences and additional advice from the authors.

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Siblings: You’re Stuck with Each Other, So Stick Together

There is plenty that parents can do to help their children get along, and part of that is reminding kids that their behavior is their responsibility. Siblings speaks directly to kids, reminding them that yes, they need to share, and no, it’s not okay to hit. But the book is no lecture—it’s written with sympathy and humor, and gives kids the tools for handling sticky situations themselves. There are tips specific to younger, middle and older kids, as well as small sections on blended families and siblings with special needs. This short book is packed with illustrations and good graphics, making it an easy read for children aged 8-12, while parents of 5 to 7-year-olds may want to read it together with them.

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Reader, writer, globetrotter. Seattle native who has lived in six countries (current home: New York). Food obsessed. Bylines in NPR, Wall Street Journal, Vice MUNCHIES, Budget Travel and more.

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