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Raising kids who can get along

Two kids reading a book together.

March 17, 2020—If you're the parent of more than one child, you know all about sibling squabbles. Kids tattle and tease, fight over belongings, and get on each other's nerves—whether they're full, half- or stepsiblings. It's all part of growing up.

But there are ways, big and small, to nurture strong, supportive sibling relationships. These tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and Zero to Three can help you raise children who truly care for each other—and will be there for each other throughout their lives:

1. Help each child feel valued. One of the best ways to do that is to spend at least a few minutes of uninterrupted alone time with each child every day.

2. Respect each child's needs. Treating kids fairly doesn't mean treating them the same way. Help siblings feel special by recognizing their differences. A case in point: Instead of trying to give identical gifts to minimize conflict, match them to each child's interests.

3. Don't compare. Don't comment on children's differences in front of them. Comparing their abilities can make children feel hurt or inadequate, even if that's the last thing you intend.

4. Create chances for caring. If a younger child just took a tumble, ask an older one to help them up. You can encourage your children to cheer for each other, too, starting at a young age. For instance, if your toddler just stacked up a big block tower, see if the baby will clap.

5. Focus on fun. Look for chances for siblings to enjoy spending time together. They can bond while splashing in a kiddie pool, tackling a jigsaw puzzle or doing a group art project, for instance.

6. Try to let children settle their differences. Conflicts have an upside: They help siblings learn to solve problems. So rather than refereeing, see if your kids can work things out. And when children do settle arguments on their own, be ready with a compliment. If you must step in to keep the peace, be fair and hear each child out.

7. Punish in private. If you must scold a child for bad behavior, do so away from other children. It's important to leave your child's dignity intact.

8. Call a family meeting. Rather than letting conflicts simmer, or even escalate, consider getting everybody together to resolve ongoing issues. Just the act of listening to their concerns can be helpful. So may sharing some of your experiences about growing up—and the lessons you learned.

Discover more parenting pointers in our Children and Parenting topic center.

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