Sibling Rivalry: 5 Tricks and Tips

Before our second baby was born, I was on pins and needles. Would the children play together? Would they be jealous? Would they fight? I wasn’t sure what to expect. But after a year together (Anton turns one on Saturday!), we’ve thankfully figured out five things that have helped kickstart a sweet friendship…
Anton thinks Toby is a total rockstar. (Look at the way he gazes at him!) But, as the older child, Toby had a harder time adjusting to life with a sibling. So, to help things run more smoothly, we did some experimenting and—after some ups and downs—found five approaches that seemed to help:

1. Bring the baby “alive” for the older child. Needless to say, newborns don’t make the most fun playmates, since all they do is cry, eat and sleep—booooring. So when Anton was first born, I tried to bring him alive for Toby. I would come into Toby’s bedroom and say, “Toby, Anton wants to know if he can come lie in the bed with you.” And Toby would smile and say, “Yes, he can.” And I’d look at Anton and say, “Anton, Toby said yes! Let’s get under the covers!” I also try to help Toby see how much Anton loves and needs him. When Anton cries, I might say, “You don’t have to worry, Anton, Toby is right here.” We also point out any funny things that Anton does. For example, if Anton starts chewing on toys, I might say, “Oh, Anton! You can’t eat toys for breakfast!” and Toby will laugh and add, “Anton, you can’t eat the toys for breakfast or lunch, silly goose!” and it seems like Anton is making this big funny joke for everyone and is fun to have around.

2. Treat them like a team. Instead of treating them like rivals, I try to treat them like a team. “Are the brothers ready to go to the playground?” or “Let’s take a brothers bath!” or “Do the brothers want to jump on the bed?” It’s human nature to want to belong to a group, and I try to make it sounds like a fun team to be part of. Brothers against the world!

3. Don’t assign roles. This brilliant book advises not to assign roles to your children, such as “the artist” or “the musician” or “the athlete”—and that includes “bully” and “victim.” So, if Toby pushes Anton, I try not to peg him as the mean attacker and Anton the weak victim. I’ll say, “Toby, that’s too rough. You brothers have to be gentle with each other. Toby and Anton, does that make sense to you both? Remember to be gentle with each other.”

4. Schedule alone time with each child. Before Anton was born, Toby and I had SO much alone time. Every evening, we’d go to the playground together or take a bike ride. Once Anton was born, we hung out as a threesome. After a while, Toby started getting clingy during the day and then dragging out bedtime for aaaaaages, and it suddenly clicked that bedtime was the rare time that we were alone together and that’s what he wanted more of. So we began scheduling outings—bike rides, the bookstore, dinners—for just the two of us, while Anton stayed home with Alex—and vice versa. (Alex takes Toby to an Indian restaurant on many Sunday nights and walks him to school every morning.) So each child gets alone time with each parent. We’ll plan the date ahead of time and talk it way up, so it feels like a very special event.

5. Don’t ignore the older child when the baby is getting all the attention. When Anton was a newborn, he slept most of the time, but now that he’s walking and babbling, people are noticing him much more. Strangers will often come up and coo, “What a cutie!” or “How old is he?” while ignoring four-year-old Toby. That’s completely understandable, of course, and children don’t need 100% equal attention at all times, but Toby clearly feels hurt and will start singing loudly to get people’s attention. So I try to bring him into the conversation right away. If someone says, “Oooh, how old is your baby?” I’ll answer, “He’s almost a year, and his big brother just turned four.” Or if someone says, “Wow, he’s such a cute walker!” I’ll say, “Thanks! His older brother helped him learn.” That way, Toby doesn’t feel left out or irrelevant.

As I mentioned above, I also really, really loved the book Siblings Without Rivalry, which is filled with wise advice and funny comics to “help your children live together so you can live, too.” It’s fantastic with so many great down-to-earth tips, and I’d highly recommend it.

And overall it’s so rewarding to watch the boys play and goof around together…


Do you have multiple children? How do they get along? Any other things you’ve tried, or books you’ve liked? Do you remember anything from your own childhood that helped (or hurt) your sibling relationships? I would LOVE to hear! We’re definitely still learning every day. xoxo

P.S. Toby meeting Anton for the very first time, and why French kids eat everything.

  1. Neela says...

    This post is old, so I assume you probably won’t ever read this comment, but on the off-chance that you do, here’s a note of thanks, Joanna.
    I’ve been reading your blog for ever, since Toby was tiny! And back then, even without having kids, i loved reading your motherhood posts- they always seemed so gentle and full of love. Fast-forward to now, i have a 3-yr-old and a 3-month-old, and while our first month was blissful, since week 5 we’ve been fielding kicks and hits all day long. We tried everything i read online, exclusive bonding time with big brother, letting him express feelings, being as empathic as possible and trying not to get exasperated or impatient, etc. But then whilst breastfeeding in the middle of the night and browsing through the blog, i found this post. The only thing that has helped (and immediately!) has been ‘making baby come alive’. I should have known cupofjo would be my source for the solution! It’s been 3 days and no hits. I can have the siblings in the same room without my heart in my throat and without an underswell of panic the whole time. Thank you so much for your help, and for being such an inspiration to be my best self in every way- not just as a mother.
    P.s. i included big brother much more in conversation about baby with strangers today- so logical, that he would feel left out! And that went well, too.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Neela, I’m so so glad to hear that. Makes my heart swell. And I have to say, for us at least, those first few months were a wild ride! It’s a big adjustment for a family to add a new baby. For us it was very tough! But got easier (and then wonderful) as time went on. Sending so much love your way!

  2. Jael says...

    Sometimes I read a post that reminds me why I love your blog so much, and why I’ve been following and reading since you were pregnant with Toby (!). This post brought me to tears, as I’m sitting here 11 weeks pregnant with my second. My first will be 22 months when his sibling is born, and my emotional pendulum is constantly swinging back and forth between anxiety and excitement. We knew we wanted two children, so having them close together seemed ideal, although I am anticipating the first year being rough….really, really rough. But I just wanted to say thank you for this post, thank you for continually bringing us fresh, helpful, applicable, real-life content, and for creating this space for us. XO

  3. Laura says...

    Any ideas what term to use for an older sister and younger brother to encourage them to be a group, since “Are the brothers/sisters ready?” won’t work?

    • Megan says...

      How about, “Are the {Lastname} kids ready?” Or even, Team {Lastname}

    • Laura says...

      Thanks, I realized the answer was in front of me the whole time. “Are the siblings ready?”

  4. I know I’m super late but I love the idea of addressing them as The Brothers! I have a 4 and 2 yr old boys so I am constantly stressing to be sure I’m being fair. Being equal 24/7 is impossible but fairness is what I strive for. Thanks so much for the tips, I’ll be using them this evening.

    Love your site!

  5. Katherine says...

    I’m so impressed by this.

  6. I absolutely do not let my kids be mean to each other. Hitting is the #1 no in our house and so it is not done. We don’t have very many rules, but cruelty is not tolerated…down to stopping the car and having a time out on the grass if need be. This is not something that happens often but I can’t bare to see parents turn a blind eye to siblings hitting each other. If we are at someone’s house and one of my kids hit another, we would go home. It would be BIG deal no matter how inconvenient. I suppose it is so important to me because my older sister would hit sometimes and it wasn’t addressed seriously enough. I speak to my 3 about this if they slip, I explain why hitting isn’t remotely tolerated in our house and shouldn’t be anywhere. All 3 of my kids are made aware that they are on the same team. Family means loyalty and helping each other through life starting now. We are gifts to each other. I think they get along really well and hopefully they will as teenagers. We will see…it is a journey.

  7. Joanna — Just had to let you know that this post was so helpful and the tips have really worked – in particular bringing the baby alive for the older one. I started doing it right after I read your post using a special voice for the baby. My toddler got it immediately and within a couple of days was asking the baby direct questions like “do you want to play trains with me?.” A couple months along and they’re already such great friends laughing together and having fun. Using the baby voice has been instrumental in helping them connect. Such a great tip!

  8. Aw you are the sweetest mama. I really liked this post even though I am 22 and babyless!


  9. I was looking into these types of tips as I was expecting my 2nd child. Turns out, my daughter didn’t need a lot of these things. She was the sweetest, most delicate, loving sister! She refused to have alone time with me, wanting her baby brother present at all outings…

    Now, with a 7 year old and a 2.5 year old, I find it hard to allow her to have age appropriate activities that don’t include her brother, because he’s so much energy and so attached to me and his sister both, but she takes it all in stride and when I asked her for the fun of it how she’d feel if there was another baby, she said she’d be happy! It’s such pure love that there seems to not be any jealousy, I feel really lucky!

  10. I think this is my favorite post of yours.

  11. kz says...

    Joanna! You are taking the long view: How can I nurture my children so that learn empathy and can nurture? And… It feels better than scolding! Thank you for this post.

  12. kz says...

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  13. kz says...

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  14. Lovely post! We just had our second in April and so far our daughters get along great. Our oldest is two and she adores her sister, always asking to play with her and snuggle her. Going to check out this book too so hopefully we can help the love grow as the baby grows.

    Also, what is that piano thing the boys are playing with? Looks awesome!

  15. oh my goodness, they are so cute!

  16. oh my goodness, they are so cute!

  17. I had so many of the same concerns and I agree with so many of these tips..
    funny… my son says silly goose too..
    getting the older one involved is always great.. and it’s been almost 6 months now and they are starting to bond beautifully. :)

  18. We got some awesome advice from friends and our pediatrician…
    1) make baby coming home day, a big sibling day. My older one got a balloon, a present, even a little cupcake to celebrate that he was now a big brother!
    2) If my older son acted out in the early weeks of having the baby home, we wouldn’t chastise. instead, we asked if he wanted a big big hug and he would always respond with so much affection and go back to behaving well
    3) make your older child feel great about being a helper (the role of helper rather than being helpful) and tell him how much the baby appreciates him, looks up to him, loves him, wants to do everything like him, etc. This has been so effective and my son adores the baby and loves being a role model.

  19. I love getting a glimpse into the blossoming relationship of your boys. The sibling bond is magical, precious, mysterious, trying, complicated, and exhausting. :)

    P.S. I never, ever do this but I recently wrote a post for my two boys and thought you might relate.

    Btw, I’m a longtime reader — you were one of the first blogs I ever read — but I hardly ever comment. It’s been fun watching your family grow. Good luck on the move!

  20. I love this list. I don’t yet have kids, but I remember how I HATED the way my parents labeled me and my brother right from the beginning, based on kind of limited evidence (I mean, we were just little kids). Somehow I was “the introvert,” which pretty much no one I know now would actually agree with, and it messed with my head for a while.

  21. My favorite picture of the two boys–that last one! I just love the huge smile on Anton’s face! Thank you for sharing your boys with us!

  22. Joanna, I just want to say that you are such an inspiring and wonderful mama and person. Your blog is my absolute favorite, and my mom reads it too.

    Thank you for being so honest, real and positive! You brighten my day – truly.

    I look forward to using this advice when I add a 2nd to my brood one day.

  23. Thank you so much for this! After refereeing three fights (and it’s before 9 am!) I needed this today. I am going to try implementing tips #2 and 3 with my 5 and almost 2 year old boys. Way to go, Joanna!

  24. The one piece of advice we actually took to heart before baby #2 was born was to protect the older child. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that advice run through my head during a difficult moment. A second child is hard on everyone but no one feels the brunt more than the first child and, depending on their age, they may not yet have the emotional maturity to deal with it. Protecting my older daughter when her baby sister arrived was the first step in me accepting my role as a mother of two. It made me more kind and patient and, now, 2 years later, I’m proud of how I handled many difficult situations. My girls are the best of friends and I might have something to do with it. Love your blog and advice. I can’t believe Anton will be 1!!

  25. Thank you for posting this!! Such great, compassionate tips. I will check out the books.

  26. Thank you so much for this. I have three little ones and my older two (4 1/2 and 2 1/2) seem to fight more than they don’t. It can be really difficult and sometimes it feels like I really have missed the opportunity to build that relationship. This is giving me hope because you have so many helpful suggestions beyond time-outs. I just put that book on hold at the library and I look forward to reading it.

  27. thank you for all these insightful and wonderful comments!! really fascinating to hear all the advice and memories. and congratulations to those of you who have new babies—or twins, katy and jenny!

  28. my big guy is rough on the younger one, so that is a challenge. like when you think he’s constantly going to kill him, pillows on the face, blankets around the head. he thinks its all hilarious. I try to be chill but I find myself yelling “what are you doing!? you are going to kill him!?” They are 23 months apart. It’s amazing to me that we survived childhood:)

  29. I have two children .. A daughter first then 4 years later the boy. They fought all the time when they were little and now they are best friends. ( they are adults now ) They make me proud every day and now they each have a child. I can sit back and smirk when they tell me their trials and tribulations as parents .. hee hee.

  30. My older son is 5 years, last sunday! and the new one is my daugther, 7 months… i try most things you say , i say my son how happy his sister is when he looks at her or how she laugh with him… and the time i spend alone with my son is the best, he loves it!
    Little sister is growing and people start paying more attention to her, so i have to notice that my older son is there…

  31. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, thanks for the tips and book recommendation, will definitely buy!

  32. Great post, Joanna! I love your ideas, especially the one about making the baby come alive for the toddler. Bookmarking for reference this October when baby #2 is due (and Griffin’s world forever changes…)

  33. This was SO sweet, and what a great approach! I only have one son and don’t plan to have another child, but I loved this.

  34. Such good stuff! We’re expecting our second daughter this August and our two will be only 15 months apart.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  35. Cuuute, I love your boys, and seeing their pictures. Sometimes I think Anton looks like Toby, and sometimes I think he’s more like Alex. They’ve definitely both got Goddard eyes, tho’ :D

  36. Great post! Just wondering where the name Anton came from? (Maybe you’ve addressed this before and I missed it…). I don’t remember it being part of the original few names you were thinking of picking.

  37. Such a nice and helpful post! I am pregnant with my first child, but I keep reading everything about maternity. I love your blog!

  38. I love these tips! I just had identical twin boys in addition to my 2 year old son (!) so this is so helpful. I also started a little toy/book stash for him whenever visitors bring things for the new babies so he will get something special too. :)

  39. Thanks so much for this, timing could not be better. My 1 year old and 3,5 year are at each other, and we are at them, and it’s just so exhausting. I feel guilty about the big bro, cause the little one is little and doesn’t understand. So there’s yelling and telling big brother no and you-need-to-understand and… Sigh. Luckily it’s getting a little better as the little one is starting to walk and getting better at communicating, but still. The negative spiral needs to end.

    I’m going to read all the comments carefully later on and have a look at that book you recommend. Thanks for the inspiration and the kick in the butt to do better!

  40. GREAT post. We are going through this right now with my three year old and 3 month old. I too just had an epiphany that my oldest has probably been dragging out her bedtime because she is craving one-on-one time. It’s hard because my husband is working long hours these days, even on weekends, and I usually have to get a sitter to do things alone with her, but I think it really makes a difference.

  41. Love these ideas Joanna and have passed them on to friends however we have 9 month old twins who already like stealing each other’s toys! They are also terribly sweet and hold hands sometimes and our little girl won’t go to sleep until she can see her brother. As a twin yourself do you have any twin tips?

  42. These are such fantastic ideas, I wish I had read them when my two were really little. They are now 7 and 10 (two girls) and they are best of friends, but they do bicker, which is healthy and is bound to happen but if it’s driving me a bit mad I’ll say to them “if you’re going to fight then you have to go and do it in the other room, or in the garden, somewhere away from mummy”, they either go off and sort it out or get bored and stop fighting and come back. It’s actually got the the point now where they will actually sometimes say “ok lets stop fighting because I don’t want to go upstairs/away from you”.
    This advice was given to me by a child psychologist years ago and it’s really been useful. It stops you having to get involved and take sides (which only often seems to make the situation worse) and allows them to find a way to sort out disagreements on their own which is such a valuable life skill for them.
    Thanks for your tips, love your blog.

  43. Lord have mercy, I can think of a number of parents who could have used the recommended books. Namely my mother- in- law, whose adult children still jockey for position at every family gathering.

  44. I don’t have children yet, but these tips sound great. I will remember them, thanks for sharing :)

  45. j says...

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  46. j says...

    this is probably due to culture (i’m asian american) but as the first child, i was definitely tasked with being a responsible, good big sibling, mom #2. i really relished it, and even today (we are 29 and 26yo respectively) i am the big sis for sure when we are together, and my word is still as good as either parents’! ;)

    the sense of responsibility i felt made us a team, gave my brother another person to turn to and guided me in my teen years–i never wanted my brother to see me doing anything that i didn’t feel comfortable explaining to him, or make him feel unsure of me and his trust in me.

    some people say putting responsibility on the older sibling is too much–but i can’t imagine it any other way. it has been give and take: just as i learned what it meant to support a sibling–unconditionally, without comparison–my brother learned to support those in his life. when i had a tough first job teaching in the bronx, my brother wrote me an encouraging song from college :) i recently edited his app for med school, and we treat each other to fun experiences together when possible (radiolab live and stand up paddling lessons).

    as much as i may have missed attention on myself, i have always been so proud and felt lucky to be a big sister. your sweet toby gets to join the big sibling club–we think with consideration because we are used to looking out for another, and will always try to help our younger sibs (whether they want it or not)! on the flipside, anton will bring a new energy into toby’s life. they are lucky brothers!! :)

  47. I loved this post! I too love how intentional you are with your language Joanna – you’re a great mum :)
    We have a 2 month old and 20 month old (both girls!) and I’ll definitely be implementing these tips (Team Sisters!)… Loving other commenters advice too !

  48. Also, yes to sleepovers! They still ask for them. :) It worked out surprisingly well when we were renovating and all three of them were jammed into one room. Our biggest problem was getting them to stop chatting and giggling.

  49. I love reading rule #3. I wish that was one my parents thought of years ago. There are 4 kids in our family, and we’re totally were pegged in certain roles. It’s been 15 years since the baby of the family was born, but I do think we’re still kind of stuck in those roles when we’re around each other. Some of the roles (musical, ornery, athletic, caring, etc.) were placed when we were little, but have been difficult to shake even though we’ve each changed as we’ve become adults.

  50. We still refer to our 3 boys (aged 8, 10, & 12) as Team Brother, something we introduced when the 3rd arrived (“Oooh, what a marvelous team you make! Go, Team Brother!” Their backyard playset was Team Brother Base, etc). They spat, but generally get along really, really well–hoping it holds as our oldest enters junior high this fall!

  51. Lovely suggestions from everyone. My two cents… Someone once told me to always let my two boys have sleepovers when they ask for it as it turns into a wonderful bonding time. We have done this (weekends only) and it really is so sweet.. Even if they fight all day, they snuggle and chat in bed.
    The other thing that we do with our boys is make them say ‘brothers forever’ when they get really mad at each other. It is pretty cute and usually cuts the tension after a big fight or argument :)

  52. I have four sisters, all of whom are brilliant and within 9 years of each other. Something I learned a long time ago which will come in handy as the boys get older is that you can’t compare yourself to your siblings. Teachers and other adults are going to do that for you (oh, you’re so-and-so’s sister!) so when one of them does really well at the science fair and one doesn’t, or if they’re both in theatre and one has a bigger part in the play, the accomplishments should be celebrated and not compared. Everyone has their own strengths and measuring yourself against someone else’s makes it difficult to cherish the experience. Siblings should be each other’s biggest champions!

  53. it’s wonderful how intentional you’re trying to be with your language and how you talk to your boys. that’s something i try to remember while i’m teaching and it’s not always easy! i’m filing away these tips for when i have my own kids.

  54. Such a good mama. I’m going to have to bookmark this for when Oskar is joined by a sibling.

  55. Our parents always made it very clear to us that it was important we be friends, not just sisters. No matter what we would always have each other so we had to be nice to each other.
    Also, if we had friends over and started fighting with each other our mom would send our friends home – good incentive to get along!

  56. Thanks for sharing, Joanna. I’m being induced with baby #2 tonight and I am so stressed about all of the above that I could vom. Thanks for helping me be a little less crazy. xo

  57. So precious!!! This is great advice. We’ve been winging it with our 2 (4 & 1 yo) but glad to see we’re not too far off! We’ve been doing all 5, some without realizing, I’m glad you gave some different words to use. Tonight, I suggested a brother bath and there were no problems! This is a first at bath time! I’m definitely picking up the book.

    One other thing we do is praise the older child for being a good “helper”. I read something about using the word “helper” rather than asking for help that makes a big difference for kids. Now that the “baby” is getting older, we let him be a helper for his big brother too. And of course he loooooves anything that has to do with big brother!

    This is a great post! Glad you shared!

  58. You have such an insightful, thoughtful, and grounded approach to motherhood. Really lovely.

  59. love this! those kiddos are candy for the eyes. xo

  60. the photo of them looking out the window is painfully adorable.

  61. amanda, that is ingenious of your mom! i LOVE hearing all these tips from people’s parents. really awesome to hear what everyone STILL remembers, years and years later!

  62. cheryl, they’ll always be your babies! :)

  63. Thanks for the tips! We have a two and a half year old and a two month old, so I’ll be employing these. And Siblings without Rivalry is on my nightstand, I’ll be cracking into it any day now :)

  64. What great advice. As one of two girls in my family, I remember growing up in a relatively “equal” environment, where my parents encouraged us equally to do our best and be our best. However, I also have fond memories of my older sister pinning me up against the wall in the hallway :) it’s all about balance, right!?

  65. This is really so great Joanna. Thank you for sharing! I know that we will probably not have a second child but I am far less anxious now that I have read these great strategies! ^_^

  66. A small example of something awesome my parents did to keep me and my two older brothers on the same team was having us all yell “tippy road this way!!!…tippy road that way!!” While we slammed into each other anytime we were all stuffed into the backseat together in hot Florida weather during turns or drives down twisty roads. It helped make something ordinarily annoying into a fun thing we were all doing together that way we weren’t yelling at each other to stay on your side and don’t touch me! They did lots of things like this to avoid any possible confrontations and turning it into opportunities to bond and have fun! (We got to yell in the car AND push into each other?! It was a blast)

  67. I just had my first, but when I was taking a parenting class last summer I really loved the advice from a mother of 5: put photographs of siblings playing and laughing together up in their rooms. This way they associate happiness and love with their siblings and look at the photos everyday!

  68. I don’t have any babies yet but this was such smart advice. I was one of 4 siblings and I always remember how much my mother emphasized our friendship with each other. At the time, of course, it didn’t stand out but now I realize how rare that can be. My siblings are my best friends and always have been and I think it’s because my mom always made such a point of encouraging us to play together and appreciate each other. One thing she did when we were a little older (probably 5-12) was if we were ever not getting along or being particularly mean to each other for some reason she would ground us from each other for the day or the afternoon….I remember that they were the WORST punishments but it always reinforced all of the things we loved to do together and how sad it was when we couldn’t spend the time together. I hope your babies stay the very best of friends! You seem to be doing such a great job of encouraging it!

  69. That picture of Toby holding Antons hand while they nap brings tears to my eyes every time I see it. My little girl was 20months when my baby boy was born and their loving moments are few and far between but completely precious when they do come. The thing that keeps me going is knowing they’ll always have each other, as an only child I just longed for a sibling. I really hope my two can bring each other lots of support and full-on joy…the wrestling matches have started already!! xx

  70. These are really great tips, Joanna. Thanks for sharing!

  71. Excellent tips. I love the one about making the baby come alive for Toby. That’s so smart. I’m going to start doing that now. And, the brothers thing is good too. Thank you for this! Love Motherhood Mondays!

  72. Thank you so much for this wonderful tips! I’m just ordered the book. I have two boys ( 7 and 3) and I have to admit, it’s not so sweet and nice between them. They have such a different attitude and temperaments, and it’s difficult to find the balance. One child is calm and would like to read, do things alone and the younger one is just an energy bomb ;) which can’t sit for a moment. The younger one is crazy about his brother, but the older, still didn’t find a way to accept his brother in the family. I hope the book help me out to find some way. Thank again.

  73. You just hang in there. All of what you’ve said already, and add just that you keep investing in your own love for each of them and their unique selves. I have 3 adult siblings, we are best friends after a childhood of beating on each other. My 2 adult children love each other too, and they definitely fought. One more thing you can do, as your boys get older, a good way to make sure they feel like a team vs. rivals is to make not fighting a joint project. We instituted a star chart, a star for every day without a fight, a present after a month of stars. It worked. And then after that long not fighting it was a habit, and they kind of forgot how to engage:).

  74. my parents really went out of their way to show my sister and me that they loved us equally. they never compared us to each other and they made a point to make us feel like unique individuals who were part of a team. they always bought 2 of the same for everything – clothes, toys, etc. and if we ever fought over anything, they would throw it in the garbage (they were tough!).

    the result of all this is that my sister and i are really close, best friends – my mom says it’s one of the things she’s most proud of.

  75. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve been stressing about this lately and wondering how my oldest will handle having a baby brother. I emailed you a few months ago and your message was so thoughtful and reassuring, these tips really make sense and are going to come in handy. Thank you again for always sharing so generously. Warmly, Heather

  76. Great tips! I have a son and a daughter three years apart. When I had my daughter and I fed her I’d scoot him up on my other leg too :) I always made him a part of everything. He’s help w/ fetching a diaper and wipes. As they got older we always had dates. Mother / daughter mother /son and switch w/ the other parent. It was tons of fun. As they got older and they have a little disagreement or fighting over a toy I let them figure it out, and if they refused they can go to their rooms until they are ready.

  77. I think your tips are amazing for helping bond brothers and help the adjustment to having a new sibling. I use many of the same tricks when I have a new baby. We have five children 8 and younger and I’ve learned things can’t always be fair. You’ll find most of these things irrelevant as soon as they can both talk or both play the same things. It’ll change. Competition is natural. They will want separation sometimes.

  78. Such smart ideas! I will be passing this on to many of my loved ones. Thank you!

  79. Oh, these are such great tips. Pinning and triple bookmarking for whenever our little guy gets a sibling. And always love to see photos of your little fellas!

  80. These are lovely tips. I have one more: on birthdays, my parents would get one nice gift for the OTHER sibling so s/he wouldn’t feel left out.

  81. Joanna, you are just so great. What a mommy. :)

  82. This is all great advice — really like the tip about not labeling each sibling.

    We just found out that we’re having another baby (whoops!) which means that our two will be about a year and a half apart. Besides having nightmares about holding two babies at once, I’m excited for them to grow up together as friends. Just have to get through a couple of tough years first!

  83. Dear Joanna,
    This a such a lovely post, thank you. I have a younger brother whom I am very close with. We are four and a half years apart. From the time my brother was born, my parents instilled in me, and vice versa with my brother when he was old enough to comprehend, to love, care and be there for each other , always. Now, as my husband and I start to think about having children, in addition to advise we will seek from our families, it is really nice to get some additional insights from your blog. Thank you.

  84. my kids are older, 9 and 12, and a boy and a girl too. my daughter Zélie fell in love with her big brother and has been fascinated with him since she turned 3 months old. They’ve always gotten along fine, with a few minor fights (he’s a builder,she’s a breaker, sorry for labelling!)
    Basically, the big brother is the one who can best console her, make her apologize and act better; she shares his feelings, they share books and friends.We’ve scheduled plenty of alone time, we make a big deal out of respecting age difference. And that works.

    I have to say, my big sister was so horrible to me, I was scared when I was pregnant with the second baby; But I think my mom could have used some tips from that book, maybe today I would have a relationship with my big sister…

  85. My “children” are now 29 and 27 and this is the book that I loved. Another written by them, “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” was also wonderful, and helped at work, too.
    I wish you the best with your lovely boys.

  86. These ideas are fantastic – I don’t have my own children yet but I’ve made a mental note and will definitely be sharing this post with friends!

    I’ve enjoyed your blog for years, but your posts lately just keep getting better and better!

  87. These are great ideas Joanna! I have two boys (2.5 years apart – 5and 2.5 yo) and I am constantly worried about sibling rivalry. It doesn’t help that my oldest is SUPER competitive (thanks to dad) in that even a trip up stairs to go brush teeth is a race. I’m constantly reminding him, “everything is not a competition” but then sometimes to speed the process along, I’ll catch myself saying to one or the other – “oh look, brother’s done, let’s hurry up before he gets downstairs.” (Yes, it’s enabling and something I’m working on.)

    The thing is, they’re siblings. They’re going to fight, they’re going to wrestle (they’re boys!) and they’re going to just get on each other’s nerves every now and then. I go back and forth between keeping the peace, playing referee and then being the actual police. There are times where I’m nearby as they’re playing and am just being “tuned in” to what’s going on without actually stepping in. There are times where I let them wrestle a little bit and get it out of their systems and just make sure no one is really getting too rough. Then there are times where I’m actually in the middle of them, tearing arms and legs apart and telling them they’re both in the corner. It depends on what’s going on and what mood everyone is in (including myself). But one thing is for sure is that I definitely don’t want them to be always pitted against one another. I try to find the balance – a little competition is good and healthy, but in the end, we’re family. We’re always there for one another. We take care of one another and look out for one another. We love one another and root each other on.
    I try to get them to do things together, to include both of them in activities and like you mentioned, if the oldest is feeling neglected, I try to carve out special time for him and vice versa for the youngest.
    Thank you for your wonderful post. These types of posts always resonate with me and make me think and I thank you tremendously.
    Keep it up! You’re doing a great job and congrats to little A for reaching the big ONE!

  88. Love the idea of not assigning an identity to each kid. I have 4 brothers, and growing up, I would always hear “oh he is definitely the creative one”, or “Patrick is my well behaved child”. It really made me label myself as the opposite of those things, and then… you know- self fulfilling prophecy. Better not to categorize each child, just let them be who they are at that time!

    Also, I’m expecting our second child in December, so this is on my mind a lot!

  89. Perfect timing! I’m expecting my second baby next week (eek!), and have been feeling so guilty about taking the attention away from my 2 1/2 yo. As a stay at home mom it will be quite an adjustment for us. I will be using all these wonderful tips!

  90. That is all wonderful advice! I especially love the teamwork thing, “Brothers against the world” is fabulous.

  91. I like how you are implementing these ideas! My two sisters and I are close in age. When we would bicker, instead of yelling at us, my dad would say, “You all are going to be great friends when you’re older. Why not start now? Choose kindness.” He was right. We’re all very tight.

  92. Joanna, where is your lovely doll house from (at least I think that’s what’s peeking out from one of the pictures? I am on the fence about buying or having my husband make our daughter one! hah!

  93. I think you are just a lovely mother. Some great ideas here to add to my parenting. We also have two boys, and they are a great team. xox

  94. Adorable pics! One thing my dad used to say whenever one of us tattled was, “I don’t care who started it. You’re both in timeout!” It was brilliant because it forced my sister and I to settle our spats on our own before they escalated to mom and dad. Mutually assured destruction :)

    – Jorie

  95. YES LAURA! such parenting geniuses. i love those books so much. i actually read “how to talk…” when i was a teenager and started noticing how much my own mom used the techniques haha.

  96. i love that, lindsay!! such a wonderful thing to remember.

  97. mary, you’re going to love having two children! it’s so, so sweet to watch them interact and giggle and play together. congratulations!

  98. Thank you so much for these ideas Joanna! I’m expecting my second in November and am definitely nervous about the new change of our family dynamic. These are great tips that I’ll be using for sure:) i’m also a bit nervous about feeling a bit sad that my time week now be split between two kids instead of one. I live the one on one time idea, but any thoughts on a new mindset?

  99. Love your tips! my girls are 22months apart and we have been struggling in the padt weeks. my 3 year old is very jealous. will look into the book! :)

  100. I’m also expecting my second child in a few months, and I love the idea of scheduling dates with each child. I feel bad that my little Atticus will have to share me with another person, but I’m going to try my best to make sure he gets one-on-one attention regularly.

    Also, Lindsay’s comment suggestion about telling the baby it’s big brother or sister’s turn for attention is so sweet! Great advice!

  101. I LOVED How to Talk So Kids Will Listen so much that I bought Siblings without Rivalry (even though I’m pretty sure my second was just a fetus at the time) because I decided the authors were straight up geniuses.

  102. Great tips! I think also not telling them they *have* to get along as they get older helps. They should be allowed to have tiffs, so they can learn how to kiss and make up and get along again.

    If they think they *have* to get along, they might never confide in each other or become close in any way in case they realize they don’t like each other or are very different (has happened to people in my family, so I’m not just making this up!).

  103. great blog post Joanna! Your writing and personal thoughts here are what keep us all coming back!!

  104. This is so timely! We’re expecting our second child in just a few weeks and one of my big fears is our oldest will feel jealous/resentful towards the baby. Lots of great tips to help big sister learn to love her little brother!

  105. This is so timely! We’re expecting our second in two months, and I’ve been really stressed about this. Love all of your ideas and can’t wait to implement them.

  106. Your baby boys are so cute! Thanks for sharing these tips. :)

  107. this is fantastic, now that Jack’s here I’ve been worrying myself. One thing I keep telling other parents of soon to be siblings is when the new baby is little, say out loud to them things like “Jack, your big sister has been so patient and now I need to go give her a bath” or things like that. The older one hears you talking to the baby (who let’s face it is getting more attention). So this way they hear you being fair. Even though the little baby doesn’t understand you the older one will. Just a few minutes ago I said to Jack, “Jack, you’ve been on my lap playing for a while, it’s Juliette’s turn to play with Mommy” and I spied Juliette’s smile. Xx