Dealing with Sibling Rivalry: Summer Playback Series – 306

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Are sibling rivalry and constant bickering driving you up the wall?

I know firsthand how stressful it can be when your kids' fighting seems endless, and you end up screaming even louder than them to make it stop.

In this week’s episode, I’m sharing some practical insights and tools that helped me and can help you, too.

Discover how to shift your perspective and handle sibling squabbles in a more effective way to bring more calm to your home.


  • The most common, unhelpful thoughts and feelings my clients have about sibling rivalry.
  • How to tell whether a new thought feels good to you.
  • Examples of reality-based, useful, and intentional thoughts to think.
  • The best way to teach calm problem-solving to your kids.
  • Episode 052 – What It Means to Be a Good Mom
  • Episode 062 – Your 2020 Vision and Mental Rehearsal
  • Apply for your FREE consultation for private coaching with Pam HERE.
  • Buy and leave a review for the Less Drama More Mama book HERE.
  • Subscribe to get email updates on Less Drama More Mama webinars, workshops, and special offers HERE.
  • Follow Less Drama More Mama on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Leave a review of the show in Apple Podcasts
  • Send a mama friend links to the Less Drama More Mama podcast HERE.



You are listening to the Less Drama More Mama podcast, episode 306: Dealing with Sibling Rivalry, week six of the Summer Playback Series

This is Less Drama More Mama, the podcast for moms who want to feel calm, in control, and confident about how to handle anything life throws their way. If you’re ready to go from feeling frazzled and disrespected to feeling calm and connected, this is the podcast for you. I’m your host, Pam Howard.

Hello and welcome to another edition of the Summer Playback Series. With over 300 episodes of the podcast, there’s so much valuable content that I want to highlight and revisit with the goal of reinforcing key ideas for my long-time listeners and introducing important topics to new followers of the show. If you haven’t yet explored my new podcast directory, which organizes all 300 episodes into easy-to-navigate categories, head to to check it out and find the exact episodes you need when you need them.

Today’s playback focuses on what to do when your kids are fighting. Since so many moms struggle to keep their cool during these moments, please share this with a fellow mama and enjoy it for yourself.


I’m so excited to bring you today’s episode because this is an episode I wish I had about six years ago when my kids were constantly bickering, and I was constantly feeling frustrated and annoyed. Every time they started bickering, I immediately felt my muscles tighten and this fiery sensation rise up in my chest, so it seemed logical to think my kids’ fighting was the cause of my frustration, and I needed to stop the fighting so that I could feel better. What I didn’t know then is what I’m always repeating here like a broken record now, which is, kids don’t cause feelings, thoughts do.

My brain had gotten so efficient at thinking about their fighting in a way that caused me to feel frustrated, it only took a nanosecond for me to react with yelling and arguing myself! I wasn’t aware of the lightning-fast thoughts that occurred between their fighting and my feelings. But the thoughts were there. Once I identified and examined them, then I was able to see how I was creating my own feelings and I could decide how I wanted to think and feel instead.

It’s not that I think happy thoughts and feel great about my kids fighting or that I now delight in the sound of bickering kids in the back seat of my car. I’ve just learned how to shift my attention from how I want them to behave to how I want to behave. I decide on purpose how I want to show up as their mom when they bicker and what thoughts and feelings will help me show up that way. That’s the only thing I have control over.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m calm 100% of the time. Not at all. But when I use the tools I share with you here on the podcast to coach myself and I practice being intentional with my thoughts, I can, and do, have way better results and I like the way I show up as a mom so much more. When I let my mind run on its default settings, though, I still get frustrated and annoyed. I also know, like I talked about in last week’s episode, that feelings don’t need to be fixed, they need to be felt. I can allow myself to feel frustrated and annoyed without reacting, and can experience those emotions just by noticing how they feel in my body. It’s not a problem.

So, today I’m going to talk to you about the thoughts that create our negative feelings about sibling rivalry and then offer some alternative ways to think about it to help you create a different result for yourself. Ok? So, let’s start by taking a look at the most common thoughts I hear from clients about sibling rivalry. First, we have “they shouldn’t be fighting” and “I just want them to get along.” That second one sounds really lovely, doesn’t it? These thoughts sound nice and even reasonable, but they’re not useful because when your kids are fighting, these types of thoughts are a complete denial of reality. Yes, they should be fighting right now because they are. No, they shouldn’t get along right now because they’re not. And as Byron Katie says, “When you argue with reality you lose, but only 100% of the time.” Whenever you argue with reality or resist what is, you’re bound to feel a negative emotion like fear, worry, frustration, or guilt. And then you don’t show up as the best version of yourself, which results in you not getting along with them or even yourself!

The next thoughts that come up a lot are what they make the fighting mean about them or about their kids. They think, “I’m a failure. Their behavior is my fault. If I were a better mom, they wouldn’t behave this way.” or they think, “There’s something wrong with my kids, they know better, they’re doing it wrong.” These thoughts create shame and blame, which again, aren’t useful. And the thoughts aren’t even true!

I did a whole episode on what makes a good mom, episode 52, I’m gonna put a link in the show notes because every mom needs to hear that one, too. Your success as a mom is about what you do as a mom, not about what your kids do and how they choose to behave. You get to decide what success as a mom means to you, but it’s based on what’s within your control, not what’s within your kids’ control. So, in other words, when your kids are fighting, it means nothing about you as a mom. Their behavior is a result of the thoughts and feelings that they’re experiencing. And the only thing it means about them is what you decide to make it mean about them.

The third types of thoughts about kids’ fighting are thoughts like, “I don’t know how to handle this. I don’t know what to do” and “this is too much” which create feelings of confusion, helplessness, and overwhelm. Once again, these feelings aren’t going to give you the outcome you want because you’re likely to act in ways that prove you don’t know how to handle the fighting like yelling back, ignoring them, or telling them to just figure it out themselves. So, let’s look at some reality-based, useful, more intentional thoughts, Ok?

I’m going to offer you several and I want you to choose the ones that feel good to you and are believable to you. The way to know for sure if a thought feels good is to check in with your body. When you think the thought, do you feel tight and closed and heavy? Or do you feel relaxed, open and light? That’s how you’ll know whether it’s a good thought for you. But just because a thought feels good to me, doesn’t mean it’ll feel good to you, so play around with them and maybe come up with some of your own.

Ok. Here we go.

  • Siblings don’t always get along, and that’s ok. 
  • Conflict is a normal part of being in a close relationship. 
  • Kids learn through conflict.
  • My kids are supposed to struggle sometimes. 
  • This is the 50% of life where my kids don’t get along. Nothing has gone wrong.
  • I wonder what’s going on with them.
  • They’re learning relationship skills.
  • I’m going to keep teaching them and helping them solve problems peacefully.
  • I’m going to hold them accountable for their behavior.
  • I’m going to figure this out.
  • We’re going to figure this out together.
  • We’re all doing the best we can.

See how these thoughts feel so much better? They bring about feelings of compassion, curiosity, confidence, and peace. Then from these emotions, you can decide how you want to handle the fighting, instead of just reacting from a negative emotion. For example, you might decide to act as a mediator to help them understand each other’s perspectives. You might suggest ways they can handle the situation or encourage them to come up with ideas on their own. You might decide to ask some questions. You might decide to ignore the entire thing and walk away.

If your kids are being aggressive and hitting each other, you might decide to validate their emotions while still holding them accountable for their behavior. Like saying, “It’s ok to be angry, but it’s not okay for you to hit. When you hit, you’ll be asked to go to your room to cool off for five minutes before rejoining the family” or whatever consequence you decide. There is no right or wrong decision, but make sure you decide ahead of time and that you like your reasons for your decision. You can’t control your kids’ behavior, but you can control how you respond to it. You can practice thinking these new thoughts ahead of time, you can practice visualizing yourself handling the situation the way you want to, so that you’ve rehearsed it in your mind before it actually happens. Every time you visualize it, you’re training your brain to go down a new path, as if you’re actually doing it now. I’m going to put a link to my episode about mental rehearsal in the show notes, too.

Maybe because of the title of this episode, you were expecting me to tell you specific tactics and strategies for dealing with sibling fighting, but honestly, it’s going to be different for every child and for every situation. Modeling calm problem-solving is the best way to teach it to your kids. You can’t make them be calm, but you can be calm. And that always starts in your mind with the thoughts you choose to think. And when you’re genuinely feeling calm, compassionate, and curious, knowing what to do will become so much easier. Those feelings are the fuel for your actions.  Just yesterday, my kids were arguing and blaming each other and the conversation was going around and around in circles. I suggested that they write letters to each other instead and that I read their letters aloud to each other. This actually worked out pretty well. We had never tried it before, and had I not been able to remain calm, I never would have been able to access the creativity to come up with it. I’m not talking about pretending to feel calm and confident, but actually feeling that way. And, we’re not aiming for perfection, right? We’re never going to be calm one hundred percent of the time and that’s ok. We’re humans, not robots. But we can feel calm more of the time, so we can be the kinds of moms we want to be more of the time. If you focused on becoming just one percent calmer every week for a year, you’d be 52 percent calmer than you are right now. Would it be worth it? Heck, yeah! Of course it would be! So, if you’re ready to fast-track your way to a more calm and peaceful life, don’t wait another minute! You deserve that now! Go sign up for a free consultation with me at to see whether my coaching is right for you. If you found this episode helpful, please leave a review on apple podcasts, share it with a friend, and I’ll talk to you again soon, mama. Bye, bye.

If you enjoy listening to this podcast, and you’re ready to feel calmer, more confident and more at peace in your family and life, I invite you to sign up for a free consultation with me to learn about how my coaching can help you achieve the exact life you want. You’ll take the concepts and tools I share in the podcast and apply them to your own life, and as your coach I’ll be there to support you every step of the way. Go to and sign up now.

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Hi, I’m Pam

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Master Parenting Coach, and former K-8 School Counselor, I’m on a mission to empower moms to feel calmer and more connected to their kids.

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