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All in the family: 12 parent-tested tips for raising siblings

TODAY

Not everyone gets along as well as the kids of "The Brady Bunch" or Wally and The Beav. Sometimes, brothers and sisters interact more like Monica and Ross on "Friends" — sometimes fine, sometimes ... not so much.

We asked our TODAY Parenting Team contributors to share their advice for encouraging the best possible sibling relationships, and we compiled the best tips and tricks below.

If you’ve got ideas for helping new parents, we’d love to hear them! Please join in this ongoing conversation by becoming a member of our team, and stay connected to TODAY Parents updates on our Facebook page.

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1. Teammates help each other (Maureen S.)

Maureen S. / Magnificence in the Mundane
"I woke up one day in 2003 as the mother of three boys under the age of 5," Maureen S. writes. "No matter how many times I rewind the tape, I'm still not sure how it happened."

"The older boys were required to help their brothers tackle new tasks and navigate the game of life. No one knows the playbook like a veteran player. My oldest taught the second one to sleep through the night and when he graduated to his own room, the middle one took over and worked with the youngest."

2. Not everyone has to sign up for the same activity (Amy McCready)

"We all know it’s easier and more convenient to treat siblings as a unit — to put them in the same 'pool' with activities — such as playing the same sport, taking the same martial arts class, attending the same music lessons. The mistake is that this 'package mentality' doesn’t allow your children to explore their individual talents and it can create competition between siblings pursuing the same activity."

3. But sometimes similar interests can help (Kimberly F.)

Kimberly F. / Life Tools for Teens
"I asked my girls (currently age 19, 17) to tell me (separately) why they feel like they have a close relationship," Kimberly F. writes. "Three of their answers overlapped."

"I know this isn’t always the case or even desired! But, when they do have similar interests, they have similar friend groups and activities. It does support more family time and they understand each other’s world. The tricky part here is to make sure they are not too competitive."

4. Let them laugh (Kimberly F.)

"And (I'm) not talking about the ‘I’m being funny but you don’t think so’ kind of humor. True, belly laugh humor. As siblings, you have an arsenal of topics to make fun of (i.e. start with mom and dad’s foibles) and all the funny nuances of living under the same roof."

5. No fighting in public (Brandy Yearous / Super Mom Workout)

"I clearly remember my dad sitting us down for a stern lesson. He said the words that still stick with us today. 'We have our arguments at home and that is where they will be settled. Do not tear each other down to your friends. Out in the real world all you have is each other. Friends will come and go, but brothers and sisters are for life. Families have to stand together.'"

6. Don't rush things (Amanda Wendling)

Amanda Wendling
"I wish I had known then that the baby boy I barely knew would grow into my daughter’s self-proclaimed 'best buddy'!" Amanda Wendling writes.

"I wish I wouldn't have had my daughter come to the hospital to meet her brother. If you’re one of those families who has sweet photos of your children meeting … skip this next paragraph.

"My 'sweet' photo from the hospital includes an obvious swipe from my daughter in the direction of her new brother (while ironically wearing a shirt that read, 'Best Day Ever!'). The truth is, my son deserved that time with just his parents. Heck, I deserved that time and so did my husband! I wish we would have realized it was okay to wait a few days to introduce chaos into our new normal and allowed ourselves quiet bonding with our son."

7. Teach sharing (Amanda Mushro)

"When they get a snack or a treat, they always ask for one for their sibling — It doesn’t matter if it is a handful of crackers at home, a lollipop at the hair salon, or a balloon at a birthday party, both kids always ask to take one for the other — always. *Drops mic* *Walks off stage* My job is done here, folks."

8. Trust yourself (Amanda Mushro)

"There is no one in this world who would do a better job of raising, loving, and caring for my son and my daughter. Just like there is no one that is a better Mom for your kids than you. So trust that and the choices you make over someone judging you for a position they are simply not qualified for."

9. Weird parents create bonding experiences (Five More Minutes)

"Yes, siblings are the humble makers and bull-crap cutters, but along with all of their never-ending tactless observations they also occasionally throw out these two gems:

"'What did he (she) say to you? I'll kill him!'

"And,

"'OMG, Mom and Dad are soooo weird!'

"And it is these last two truths that are really the most important because they confirm that even though it doesn’t look it or sound like it, your siblings actually do have your best interests at heart and like it or not, you are bonded together forever by your weird, weird parents."

10. 'Sibling on' (Danielle Lucia Schaffer)

Danielle Lucia Schaffer

"As they navigate through life, I want them to know their relationship is worth celebrating. They should always know they have each other, whether for counseling, guidance, cheering or support. These kids are navigating adventures and adversities. I don't want them to be just siblings by default, I want them to share in life the wins and fails, accomplishments and setbacks. More than the sister or brother thing, I want them to fight, forgive and love through all the varied stages of siblinghood and simply... 'sibling on.'"

11. Fight competition with one-on-one time (Amy McCready)

"Schedule in 10-15 minutes of one-on-one time with each of your kids on a daily basis. This time is devoted to doing what your child loves to do — reading, building Legos, shooting hoops, coloring, whatever! Your kids will treasure this new 'all about them' time and you’ll find a significant decrease in sibling competition."

12. Growing up friends (Lucky Orange Pants)

"They were each other's first friends and first loves. They are each other's playmates and confidantes. They are learning from each other how to fight fairly and how to forgive. They are learning how to keep a secret and how to communicate without uttering a word. In time, they will know each other's greatest sins and biggest dreams. They will see each other at their best and at their worst and they will love each other anyway."

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