Refereeing Your Way to a Peaceful Home: 3 Surprising Tips to Get Ahead & End Sibling Squabbles

Being the oldest of four kids, I’ve seen firsthand the magic that is a mom refereeing the squabbles between siblings–well, at least, trying to referee. Now that I’m a mom, sometimes I wonder how she did it.

Stop taking your sister’s toy.

You didn’t even want to use that until you saw he had.

That’s it–don’t even look at each other.

Ah hah–that last one. Well, that’s just one of the phrases I hear myself using with my minions on a daily basis. Seriously, no one is even speaking, and yet I know the second I turn my back on them, the snipping will begin again.

I mean, they’re kids–it’s gonna happen. In fact, my sister and I didn’t become best friends until I hit my mid-20s. So while there is hope, I’m telling you, I don’t have that kind of patience. I need these girls to start acting like they like each other, just a little bit, like yesterday.

If you’ve ever been here, don’t worry, this too shall pass. But to help you get there sooner rather than later, here are a few adjustments to try out. May they help enhance harmony between siblings and keep you from losing your ever-loving mind.

Treat them like the individuals they are

It’s an easy habit to fall into. You know, the one where you assume just because one kid likes squishmallows, their sibling wants them too. When you start treating your kids like one general group of small people you have to wrangle, they start picking fights with each other to assert their unique identity.

Make time to hang out with them individually. Even if it’s something as quick and straightforward as chatting and coloring together or asking all about their day when you’re pulling dinner together (or picking it up). Having this time with you leaves them focusing less on why you never choose their activity and more on feeling heard and seen.

Don’t make them do the same things all the time

I’ll be the first one to admit buying multiple of the same crafts or activities or even tee-shirts can prevent an argument about who gets what. But nine times out of ten, instead of that outcome, you end up playing the comparison game. The one that goes something like, “I colored it better–I finished it faster–This shirt was my favorite color first!” Yes, I may or may not be speaking from experience.

Encouraging your kids to do their own thing, even when they do it together, can help avoid these disputes. It’s also a chance for each of them to highlight their different strengths, and maybe dare I say, inspire some admiration from their sibling.

Celebrate when things are going well

I know, I know. The moment when all is going well and there is blissful harmony on the homefront, you’re apprehensive about making a big deal of it less it plummets back into total chaos. But reinforcing the positive behavior you see is absolutely worth the risk.

You don’t have to make a grand gesture or an over-the-top celebration. But something simple as–I appreciate you playing so nicely together. Or–I’m proud of you for taking turns and/or sharing–can go a long way.

Personally, I’ve tried all three tweaks to my parenting game. And I’ve got to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I won’t be permanently hanging up my parenting referee whistle any time soon. But it’s been a nice change of pace to see the times my kids get along are starting to outweigh the times they are on each other’s last nerve.

Just kidding–they’re arguing over who will pick up the socks in the hallway right now.