Ep. 61 – Lucy, Age 6: How to fight less with brother

Getting along with sibling

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Ep. 61 – Lucy, Age 6: How to fight less with brother


Think About It Questions

  • Why do you think it’s sometimes harder for kids to get along with a sibling than a friend?
  • When a kid does something that annoys us, it’s tempting to do the same thing–or something worse–right back to them. Why is this usually not a good idea? (HINT: Why do both kids lose in a “contest” of who can be meanest?)
  • Dr. Friendtastic said “If you’ve asked a sibling [or other kid] to stop two times, and they haven’t listened, they’re probably not going to listen,” so your goal should shift “to taking care of yourself.” How could you do that?
  • Do you think it’s easiest to be an only child, an oldest sibling, a youngest sibling, or a middle sibling? Why?


Welcome! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Let’s hear today’s question:

Hello, my name is Lucy, and I'm 6-years old. How do we fight less with my brother?

Hi, Lucy! Thanks for sending in this question. A lot of kids want to know how to get along better with their siblings! Brothers and sisters can be a lot of fun, but oh my goodness, sometimes they’re hard to live with.

The answer to how to fight less with your brother is simple but not easy: treat him the way you would treat a friend.

Think about it: I bet when you talk to your friends, your tone of voice is friendly and your words are kind. What about when you talk to your brother? When your friends invite you to do something, I bet you try to say yes and be a good sport! How do you respond when your brother wants to play with you? When you disagree with your friends, I bet you try to talk things out or come up with a compromise that’s fair to everyone. What about when you and your brother disagree?

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “But wait, my friends don’t boss me around, or tease me, or take my stuff, or tell on me to get me in trouble…(or whatever  annoying thing your brother does)!” I’m sure that’s true. Siblings are very good at doing exactly the thing that bothers us most! So it’s very tempting to get back at them by doing exactly the thing that bothers them most!

But here’s the big problem with that strategy: If your brother does something mean, and then you do something mean back, is there any chance at all that he’s going to think, “Ah, now that you’ve been mean to me, I’ll stop because I see the error of my ways!”?

No. That’s not going to happenl. If you do something mean, he’s likely to respond by doing something even meaner. You don’t want to get into a contest with your brother of who can be meanest because you’ll both lose.

You can’t control what your brother does, but you can act in ways that are more likely to get a kind response from him. Think of this as brother training!

Start by acting how you’d like him to act. Show him the way. If you want him to be kinder, do something kind for him. If you want him to play with you more, invite him to do things you’re pretty sure he’d enjoy doing with you.

In relationships, we tend to get more of whatever actions we pay attention to. So, when your brother is being kind and friendly, respond warmly and give him lots of attention! When he’s being less than friendly, try not to give him your attention.

If you’ve asked a sibling to stop two times, and they haven’t listened, they’re probably not going to listen. Asking more or louder won’t help. Instead, your goal has to shift from trying to get your brother to change what he’s doing to taking care of yourself. Often the best way to do that is to walk away from the upsetting situation.

Over time, these strategies of showing him kindness and paying attention when he’s being kind can help your brother learn to get along better with you. You might even end up being good friends.

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.

You can learn even more about friendship through my funny and practical books for kids: Growing Friendships: A Kids’ Guide to Making and Keeping Friends and Growing Feelings: A Kids’ Guide to Dealing with Emotions About Friends and Other Kids. They’re available through your library or wherever you buy books.

OR find them on your favorite podcast platform!