Siblings are our first friends, our enemies and rivals. Playmates in childhood, they shape our lives, share memories, and can be our best friends in adulthood.

The Vietnamese proverb tells us brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet. In India, the sibling relationship is so cherished that a festival is held in observance called Rakhi. At this celebration, the sister presents the brother with a woven bracelet to show their lasting bond even when they have raised their own families.

And yet sibling rivalry and squabbles are part of everyday life as children grow. Learning to share or even compete for adult attention (parents, nannies, grandparents, etc) are two of the primary reasons a disagreement begins.

It’s mine”, “”But I was playing with it first”, “You like him/her better than me”, and one I hear all too often from young Mr L is, “It’s not fair”. Call me harsh or just plain realistic, but my response is always, “Life’s tough. Get used to it”.

And mostly I allow children to resolve their own issues with their siblings unless there is the threat of physical violence. What better opportunity to learn conflict resolution.

You also must have house rules for acceptable behaviour, encourage individual play time, spend time independently with each child, and regularly enjoy fun as a family. The latter may require precision organisation but I cannot emphasise enough the importance of making time for both.

Two more things – be careful about comparing, equally in thought and action, and hugs and affection can soothe an upset soul and show your child love, love love.

Irving Berlin, one of eight children, knew much about sibling relationships and used his keen sense to pen the lyrics for “Sisters”.

“Lord help the mister who gets between me and my sister and
Lord help the sister who gets between me and my man”.