And So It Begins…

Up until now, Gracie and Bean have been pretty great together. He really loved showing her his toys and she was crazy about him. But then last weekend, Gracie started to crawl.

And Bean’s life changed forever.

Now, Gracie can get into his stuff. And if he moves it away from her, she can crawl over to it again. Bean doesn’t know what the crap is going on, but he knows he is not happy about it. He’s started doing this really funny thing when he sees Gracie coming towards one of his treasures. He throws himself down on top of his toys and covers them with his entire body, while yelling out, “NO, GWAYCIE!”


Chris and I didn’t really prepare for how to handle sibling rivalry. We had parenting talks about discipline and setting boundaries and potty training and religion and all that other important stuff. But we never really put a game plan together for sibling rivalry. We’ve been shooting from the hip for the past week, and, so far, we’ve actually got a pretty good system going.

Whenever Gracie starts getting all over Bean and his toys, we don’t go remove Gracie from the situation. It would be easy for us to just walk over when Bean starts freaking out and put Gracie somewhere else, but the fact is that Bean and Gracie are going to be playing together for a looooooong time, so Bean’s going to have to learn at some point how to handle sharing with her. Why not start at the very beginning?


When Bean starts yelling about Gracie taking his things, Chris and I usually say to him, “Speak nicely to her, Bean. Gracie is just a baby. She doesn’t understand.” And he actually does. He’ll stop yelling and instead use his sweet singsong voice he uses just for her. And he says things like, “No, no, Gracie. These toys aren’t for you.”

He used to snap at her and say, “No, Gracie! MINE!” But we quickly stepped in on that one. We treat the word “mine,” as a bad word in our house. If he says that word, we sharply tell him, “No, sir. We do not say that word.” That has helped with the temper tantrums this week a little bit because he has to find a different way to tell her to stop. Instead, he usually says things like, “That’s not yours, Gracie,” or “That’s not for you, Gracie.” Both of which are acceptable in our house.

We are coaching Bean verbally as he is talking to Gracie. We don’t go over to them and remove her, but we talk him through fixing the situation himself. After he has told her no, we tell him that if he doesn’t want her to play with his toys, he needs to go get her a toy that she can play with. Or, if he is hoarding all the toys (another thing that’s started happening since Gracie became mobile), we tell him he has to choose one of his toys to share with her. That seems to really help because it gives him ownership over the situation and he gets to make a decision about Gracie playing with his toys.


I know that this is just the beginning of sibling rivalry in our family. I’m sure we have years of this left ahead of us. But I figure at least we’re starting to handle it by teaching Bean HOW to handle it.

How do YOU handle sibling rivalries in your house?

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17 Thoughts to “And So It Begins…”

  1. I wish I had some wonderful words of wisdom for you, but I am exactly one year behind you with the two kids. So, all I can say is I bookmarked this article for later! Thank you!

  2. The rule around here is that they generally share all their toys. If you’re not using it right now, you can share it with a sibling that would like to play with it. Exception of the rule: if sibling is not playing carefully with it, it isn’t age appropriate, or it is a particularly special/breakable/expensive item.

  3. Carrie

    That is a great strategy! We did something similar when my boys were about the same ages. Now that they are bigger my little one can assert his will and is no longer placated by his older brother choosing a toy for him. We’ve employed a new strategy using my FAVORITE PARENTING TOOL IN THE WORLD; the egg timer. Now when one of my kids wants what the other is playing with, first they must ask nicely if they can play with it…inevidably the answer to the question is “no”…so then child #1 is told “we share with our brother” and child #2 gets the egg-timer which is set for 3-5 minutes (depending on the toy and how the day has been going) and can hold it until it goes off. Child #2 is then given the toy to play with, and child #1 can hold the egg-timer until it is their turn again. I know I am making it sound as if this is all occuring while birds are chirping and I’m baking cookies, but no, there is usually a lot of screaming and tears going on – but it does seem to work and helps them understand that the other will not have the toy forever and everyone gets a turn.

  4. I love this approach, especially “mine” being a bad word! We haven’t needed it yet, but when my husband was growing up, his parents would remind him and his siblings that the toys weren’t theirs; they were mom and dad’s. Then the whole “mine” thing goes out the window. Good luck! Sounds like you have a great start. And Gracie’s smile in that first photo is priceless!

  5. We too are still figuring out how to handle sibling rivalry, since it always changes as the kids change and get older. Our son, AJ, is 5 and our daughter, RYan, is 2 and a half. AJ started with the ‘mine’ thing also when Ryan start being more mobile. Now Ryan is starting, usually about things that aren’t hers and no one is trying to take from her. Showing her independence I guess. Most of the toys in the house are to be shared and ownership at the time is given to whoever was playing with it first. That came from the fact that there are a lot of hand me down toys that used to belong to AJ that he grew out of but still remembers. There are a few things that are considered belonging to one person, they can still be shared but the non-owner needs to ask first. We also ask them to get the other a toy they can play with if there is an issue. There are still times when the only thing to do is take the toy away and no body gets to play with it. I think sharing is important but I also believe that children need to have some things that are only theirs. It’s important for them to know the difference and learn how to handle those situations.

  6. HeatherM

    I LOVE how you have made “mine!” a bad word in your home. It teaches that selfishness (the root cause of much sibling rivalry) is not desirable or acceptable in your home, from such an early age. Ingenious. My mom’s strategy was to let us duke it out and figure it out ourselves, and that definitely didn’t work, because my sister and I are only just starting to get over our rivalries and finally be friends at 28 & 29 yrs old.
    My MIL used a technique (that worked well) on my husband and MIL- she called it “catch them being good.”. Basically, when you notice them sharing or playing nicely together, you come over and play with them too, to use positive attention to reinforce the positive behaviors. My husband and BIL are the two most opposite people on the earth, but they still love doing a remodeling project together or pulling out the family lego bin w/ my niece & nephew, and they have pretty much always gotten along & included the other in their activities, even growing up they made many of the same friends.

  7. Rachel

    Congrats on your Bloggie!!

  8. Rachel

    Congrats on your Bloggie award!!

  9. What a great idea making the word “mine” a bad word! I may try doing that, but then again my worry is that my baby isn’t going to learn to share as well, because right now she is the only one (and may be for a while). Hopefully I can get creative and figure out ways to teach her to be open to sharing when she doesn’t have siblings.
    Cabin Fever in Vermont

  10. Ann G-B

    Connor has that same book with the tiny trains…. How much time do you spend each day trying to find the missing ones?

  11. jenny-bird

    Nice shooting from the hip! You’re right, Gracie isn’t old enough to understand what she’s doing (yet). Asking Bean to speak more clearly and to share his toys sounds like an excellent technique. It gives him the opportunity to learn to control his actions while also showing Gracie what’s OK and not OK. Best of luck!

  12. We have been seeing this over the last few months and just when I think we have it nipped it comes back but it is getting easier. Haley doesn’t like to share anymore than her older brother though so I think I may be in trouble. The other night he was on her ride-on toy and she pushed it across the room into a wall and then started trying to push him off. Of course she was redirected because that is not acceptable but afterwards I had to go hide in another room and laugh. After weeks of taking, girlfriend is standing up for herself.

  13. KT

    Wanted to share this cause someone shared it w me and I love it- when kids fight and say mine, instead we learn “who’s toy is this? God’s. And it’s for all of us to use. Right now it is so and so’s and then we will trade.” Totally changed our whole dynamic.

  14. OMG seriously.. i need help with this! I always feel like I am favoring one over the other… yelling share doesn’t seem to help.

  15. Mine are doing the exact same thing. Most of the time they get along so well, but my 1 year old Lyla loves to mess up whatever my 2 year old Benjamin is working on. She just started walking and he loves to push her down just when she gets going. It is so sad. Half of the time she cracks up laughing so hopefully he isn’t trying to be too mean.

  16. This is pretty much exactly how we are handling it in our house. My son will be 3 in may and my daughter 1 in June so they are close to your kids ages. When Drew hoards toys or grabs them away from Kara we tell him to share and pick out toys to give her. So far it’s working but Kara isn’t very mobile yet.

  17. Kat

    LOVe the way you guys are handling the situation. That’s such a wonderful, caring, smart approach!

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