Tired of sibling squabbles over toys, devices, and anything else they can think of? So was I—till I tried this mom-tested strategy that actually worked!

By Beata Santora
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Remember when you thought your kids would be best friends, sharing toys and learning from each other in harmony every day of their lives? If so, I bet you also remember the first time they fought over a toy (or piece of cake, or stool at the kitchen island, or, or, or…).

The truth is, unless your kid is an only child, you’ve likely witnessed sibling squabbles every day of your parenting life. Older siblings will lose their cool when a younger sibling infringes on their territory. And that younger sibling knows just how to push the button that causes their older sib to lose it.

Honestly, it left me fed up and exhausted. There are plenty of toys in the house—so why must they fight over that tiny plastic duck that no one cared about yesterday?

Since my usual approach—lengthy lectures about the benefits of compromise—didn't seem to be working, I asked my friend Cheryl Butler, aka Mighty Mommy, for advice. 

To combat the warlike atmosphere in my home, Cheryl, a mother of eight who somehow finds time to write and podcast about her experiences, suggested putting up a set of household rules in a heavily-trafficked area. Each rule focuses on a particular behavior that is a barrier to peace. My list looked like this:

1. In a conflict, no hurting (hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting) is ever allowed. If this happens, the consequence is no screen time for a week.

2. No name-calling or personal insults about someone’s physical appearance. Consequence same as in Rule #1.

3. If anyone is fighting over a toy, that toy goes into time-out. No questions asked.

4. Any person who demands to be first, will go last.

5. Whatever is borrowed must be returned. If it isn’t, the consequence is that the borrower must choose an item from their sibling’s room to replace the missing one.*

*It’s a good idea to institute a borrowing protocol in which the child who borrows something from a sibling must put up collateral—a possession that will be returned only when the borrowed item is returned. (This is particularly effective once your kids have gadgets).

Amazingly, once these rules were written down, they were harder for my kids to ignore—and even harder to argue with. So the next time a toy became the cause of World War III, I simply took it away and wordlessly pointed to Rule #3. It's not my rule, kids—it's the house rule. And it's helped restore peace and sanity to our home. 

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