It's a fact of life: Siblings squabble. Ways to help make peace now and set them up for friendship later:
Don't play the blame game.
Toddlers and preschoolers lack the problem-solving skills to settle spats, so they'll need your help (and patience) to learn to share and take turns. Focus on what needs to be done now to defuse the trouble, whether it's separating the kids or removing a toy, rather than on who did what or how it started -- after all, it takes two to tangle!
Make each kid feel secure.
Siblings often fight for your attention, so help them feel confident in your unconditional love, no matter what their behavior or feelings. Instead of scolding your child ("Don't say that about your sister!"), show that you accept her emotions: "Sounds like you're pretty upset with Sarah right now." On PopSci.com: Why parents are more strict with older kids
Encourage sibling revelry.
Compliment your kids whenever they show empathy or consideration for one another: "It was very sweet of you when you gave your little brother a hug."
Set house rules.
Keep them simple: "No shouting; no hurting, like hitting, kicking, or biting; no name-calling; no taking someone's stuff without permission." Emphasize a zero-tolerance policy for physical or verbal aggression.
Teach your kids to handle their feelings.
Counting to ten, walking away, or repeating "It's no big deal" are great ways for them to defuse anger. To resolve a dispute, suggest that they roll dice to see who gets to do something, or give them a timer to set for taking turns.
Handle a younger sibling copying an older sibling.
Younger children often love to emulate older siblings, but how much of this should you allow? Copying an older sibling does help the younger child mature more quickly, but often in good ways, says Harrison, NY, child and family therapist Michelle Maidenberg, Ph.D. “Kids with older siblings often learn manners and how to interact with friends earlier than their peers,” she says. “They may also pay more attention to personal hygiene, as in taking showers, brushing their teeth, and learning to use deodorant.” But you may have to step in if it turns out to be too much, too soon. Plus, you need to allow your older child some space and individuality.
If your younger son wants to play video games with his older brother and they're too advanced, acknowledge your younger son's interest, then focus on what you will allow: “I see you're really into video games, too. Let's try to find some that are just right for you.”
If copying clothes is an issue, Maidenberg suggests taking time to shop with your younger child separately. “Let's look for some things that really show off your own fun sense of style,” you might say. The bottom line: If you take the time to acknowledge your younger child's yearnings and find some solutions especially for her, she'll eventually stop trying to mimic the older kids.