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Behavior Makeover: Sibling Battles

Start your kid's behavior makeover by thinking about your childhood. Did you fight with your siblings (or childhood friends)? What did you fight about? Did your parents intervene? Was that helpful? Did you ever learn to get along? What skills did you use to help reduce your conflicts? How did you learn them? Talk to other parents to find out how they're dealing with sibling battles. What works for them?

Now it's time to take action to begin making over your kid's behavior. Use your Makeover Journal to write down your thoughts and develop your plan.

  1. Identify what's triggering the conflicts. Is the other child getting more attention, being manipulative, or bullying? Does he have more toys? Do you take sides? Is the hurt child feeling she is not being listened to or is being taken advantage of?

  2. Try to witness – without their awareness – a conflict. Tune into the behaviors of your kids before the fighting starts. How do your kids typically respond to each other in a heated moment? What behavior does one kid (or both of them) use that escalates the situation, such as insulting, hitting, swearing, or biting? Is there a skill you could teach that might defuse the conflict before it becomes full-blown?

  3. How do you typically respond to sibling conflicts? Do both kids think your actions are fair? How do your kids react? Does your response escalate, reduce, or neutralize the conflict?

  4. Read the strategies, and select the two that you think would work best for your kids. Experiment to see how effective they are in reducing sibling conflicts with your kids.
Sibling battles are inevitable, so completely terminating them is unrealistic. Nevertheless, you can minimize them. Once you try a strategy, be consistent with it until you see change.

Makeover Pledge
How will you use the five strategies and the Behavior Makeover Plan to help your kids achieve long-term change? On the lines below, write exactly what you agree to do within the next twenty-four hours to begin your kid's behavior makeover.

Makeover Results
All behavior makeovers take hard work, constant practice, and parental reinforcement. Each step your kid takes toward change may be a small one, so be sure to acknowledge and congratulate every one of them along the way. It takes a minimum of twenty-one days to see real results, so don't give up too soon. Remember that if one strategy doesn't work, another will. Write your child's weekly progress on the lines below. Keep track of daily progress in your Makeover Journal.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3


Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka (New York: HarperCollins, 1999). Creative techniques for using power struggles as pathways to better understanding within any family. Useful for any age. Addresses the cause of power struggles rather than just the symptoms.

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (New York: Avon, 1998). A classic in helping parents reduce sibling rivalry.

Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems, by Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn (Roseville, Calif.: Prima Publishing, 1999). An excellent parenting resource. Particularly helpful sections include "fighting friends," "sibling rivalry," and "fighting siblings."

The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (New York: Random House, 1995). Brother and Sister Bear get into a major sibling battle, and Mama Bear helps them work things out. Ages 4 to 8.

Bang, Bang, You're Dead, by Louise Fitzhugh (New York: HarperCollins, 1969). Two kids battle for command of a hill, then work out their disagreement. Ages 5 to 8.

Superfudge, by Judy Blume (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1994). A favorite among kids 8 to 12 about an older brother who must deal with his very annoying younger brother.


From No More Misbehavin' by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2003 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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