How to help your children get along

Call the children by their own names. An only child wouldn't be called "the boy" or "the singlet;" neither should two boys or girls be called "the boys," "the girls" or "the twins."

Don't compare the children. Instead of saying, "Why can't you fold your arms like your brother?" say, "Please fold your arms so we can pray."- Teach them how to resolve their own conflicts. For example, when two children are fighting over a toy, help them come up with their own solution. Taking a toy away until they learn to share doesn't teach them how to share.

Realize that being fair doesn't necessarily mean treating them the same. A punishment for one child might not work for another. Likewise, a reward for one child may not be a reward for another.

Discipline or scold in private. When a child is scolded in front of brothers or sisters, it creates feelings of resentment and embarrassment. And never ask one child to scold another child for you.

Observe positive behavior. Whenever I see my children playing nicely, I try to remember to say, "I'm so happy you are playing nicely together." Or if I see one child doing something nice for another, I say, "What a good brother you are!"

Help your children recognize brothers'/sisters' emotions. Saying things like, "Your brother is sad because you took his toy away," or "Your brother is smiling because he's happy that you gave him an ice cream cone" will help your child see the consequences of his/her actions.

Seek the Lord. Whenever I'm faced with a parenting problem that doesn't seem to have a solution, I ask the Lord for help. Many times the Holy Ghost will whisper to me what I should do to restore peace and harmony into the home. - Heather Pack, Mesa, Ariz.

What we did:

Foster closeness

As a mother of four, including three teenage daughters, I've always felt lucky that our girls were best friends. But people often ask us what we did to foster such closeness, and that's made me think a little more about it. Here are a few things that helped us:

Encourage each child to discover and develop his/her unique talents. One may excel in music, one in sports and one in writing. Find a way for each to shine.

Encourage the children to attend siblings' games, concerts, awards programs, etc.

Have fun as a family and foster friendships within the family. Go camping together, explore your city, bake cookies, visit friends.

Sit together as a family during sacrament meeting, pray for each other in family prayer, talk to each other over meals and at family home evening.

Give praise and compliments freely and sincerely. Our 11-year-old son loves it when an older sister tells him his hair looks good.

Help each child feel loved and unique so there isn't competition or jealousy between the children.

Emphasize the fact that friends may come and go over the years, but your family is together for eternity. Our family members are our best friends. - Linda Toone, York, Pa.

Sought help

When our 3-year-old daughter was unkind to our newborn girl, my husband and I sought help. We learned that we cannot force our children to love each other, but we should praise them incredibly when they are kind and discipline when they are not.

In our case, it was necessary to make a poster of photos of being kind to and sharing with the baby. We titled it, "Being Gentle to (child's name)." This visual aid helped our daughter tremendously. The two girls are now close and show love continually toward each other. - Vera Sawyer, San Antonio, Texas

Special night

My wife and I were married 18 months ago, bringing together two families with different backgrounds. The families have bonded so much more quickly and easily than either of us dared to hope for. There are numerous reasons, but one in particular I would like to share.

Each child has his/her special night once a week where there is one-on-one with the parents. The other children go to bed. The "special" person that night selects the activity and a small treat. The evening lasts from a half hour to one hour. The children try extra hard to eliminate all rivalry and contention. The penalty is five to 15 minutes off the offender's night. This activity is fun for all, and it has worked miracles in our home. - Cal Rowley, Polson, Mont.

Don't boss

When I'm alone with one of my daughters, I will occasionally tell her that her sister loves her very much. Because they are young, they don't verbally express their love for one another that often, so I do this to help them love and feel closer to each other.

Just as I try not to boss my children around, I do not allow my daughters to boss each other. When they do so, it demonstrates disrespect and creates contention. - Shelli H. Tyler, Salt Lake City, Utah

Keep problems private

Keep each child's problems private so you won't humiliate the child in front of the others. Include each child in the gift selection and money spending for the other children, especially for Christmas and birthdays.

Review reports and special achievements privately and seek permission of the child achiever before making family announcements.

Each child has his or her own living space and has the responsibility to help clean and to keep his/her own area clean.

Don't yell at your children or make children take sides with family members against other family members, including parents. - Shelley R. Waasdorp, Salt Lake City, Utah

Scriptural helps

While on a recent trip I came across a plaque with Bible scriptures on it. The verses told children how to get along. I bought it and edited it with some LDS scriptures. I printed it out and framed it. I also made one for each of my children, who are all married, for Christmas. I wish I'd had it all in one place when my children were small. Some of the suggestions with LDS scriptures are the following:

"Look after and help each other. Mosiah 4:5."

"Keep your promises. D&C 136:20."

"Try to understand each other's point of view. 3 Ne. 17:6." - Cheryl Holmes, American Fork, Utah

How to checklist:

1 Seek the Lord's help, guidance; follow the scriptures.

2 Treat each child as unique; praise; encourage talents.

3 Discipline privately; don't let them boss, scold each other.

4 Foster family closeness; teach that family is forever.


Nov. 29 "How to enlarge your social circle, make new friends as a single member of the Church."

Dec. 6 "How to feel, spread the spirit of Christmas when you live alone."

Dec. 13 "How to find strength and be a positive influence when you're the only member in your family."

Dec. 20 "How to make Christ the center of Christmas traditions."

Dec. 27 "How to develop qualities of discipleship."

Jan. 3 "How to gain a deeper spiritual appreciation for the Old Testament."

Jan. 10 "How to better serve those to whom you are assigned as a home teacher or visiting teacher in 1998."

Also interested in letters on these topics: "How to get out of a rut in your career," "How to help yourself or loved one overcome an abusive nature," "How to be prepared to share the gospel and answer questions," "How to build a strong work ethic in children," "How to encourage children and young people to be physically active."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, send fax to (801) 237-2524 or use internet E-mail: Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed