Using Words Instead of Actions for Sibling Rivalry and Tantrums: Building Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills

When siblings engage in rivalry or tantrums, resorting to physical actions can exacerbate the situation. Teaching children to use words instead of actions is crucial for managing conflict effectively and building healthy relationships. 

Here are some strategies:

Teach Emotional Vocabulary:

  • Equip children with a vocabulary for identifying and expressing their emotions accurately.
  • Introduce terms like “angry,” “sad,” “frustrated,” “happy,” and “excited.”
  • Encourage them to use these words to describe their feelings rather than acting out.

Communication Difficulties:

    • Young toddlers lack the vocabulary and emotional maturity to express themselves clearly. Frustration and unmet needs can manifest as tantrums.
    • Limited understanding of the world around them can lead to confusion and anxiety, which can trigger meltdowns.

 Encourage “I” Statements:

    • Guide children to express their feelings and needs using “I” statements.
    • This helps them take ownership of their emotions and avoid placing blame on others.
    • Examples: “I feel frustrated when you take my toy without asking,” or “I’m feeling hurt when you call me names.”

Active Listening and Validation:

    • Actively listen to children when they express themselves, making them feel heard and understood.
    • Avoid interrupting or dismissing their feelings.
    • Validate their emotions by saying things like, “I understand that you’re feeling angry,” or “It’s okay to feel sad.”

Problem-Solving through Communication:

    • Encourage children to talk about the problem and brainstorm solutions together when conflict arises.
    • Help them identify their needs and find ways to address them without resorting to physical actions.
    • Guide them to compromise and find solutions that are fair and beneficial for everyone involved.

Role-Playing and Practice:

    • Utilize role-playing activities to help children practice using words instead of actions during conflict scenarios.
    • Let them play different roles and act out how situations can be resolved peacefully through communication.
    • Provide feedback and guidance to help them improve their communication skills.

Positive Reinforcement and Rewards:

  • Recognize and praise children when they use words effectively to express themselves and resolve conflicts peacefully.
  • Offer positive reinforcement, such as verbal praise, stickers, or privileges, to encourage them to continue using these strategies.

Create a Safe Space for Expression:

  • Establish a safe and supportive environment where children feel comfortable expressing their emotions openly and honestly without fear of judgment or punishment.
  • This can include setting aside specific times for open communication or creating a “feelings corner” where children can express themselves freely.

 Be Patient and Consistent:

  • Changing ingrained behavior takes time and consistent effort.
  • Be patient with children as they learn and practice using words instead of actions.
  • Maintain consistency in your expectations and provide ongoing support and guidance throughout the process.


  • Using words instead of actions is a valuable life skill that promotes healthy communication, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence.
  • By providing children with the tools and support they need, you can empower them to navigate challenging situations constructively and build strong, positive relationships with their siblings.

Seek professional support if you need additional guidance or are facing significant challenges in managing sibling rivalry or tantrums.

Strategies for 3-Year-Olds:

  1. Sharing and Taking Turns: Practice sharing toys and taking turns in games to promote fairness and cooperation.
  2. Use Words Instead of Actions: Encourage your child to use words instead of hitting, grabbing, or other physical aggression to express their needs.
  3. Identify Feelings and Needs: Help your child identify their emotions and needs by naming them for them.
  4. Offer Calming Activities: Provide age-appropriate activities like coloring, playing with blocks, or listening to music to help your child calm down during tantrums.
  5. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Teach your child simple relaxation techniques like deep breathing or counting to manage their emotions.
  6. Show Kindness and Empathy: Encourage your child to show kindness and empathy towards their sibling through actions like offering a hug or sharing a toy.
  7. Play Parallel Play: Play alongside your child to model positive behavior and provide emotional support.
  8. Offer Choices: When faced with a conflict, offer your child limited choices to help them make decisions and feel more in control.
  9. Use Positive Self-Talk: Encourage your child to use positive affirmations like “I can do it” or “I am strong” to build self-confidence and manage frustration.
  10.  Ask for Help: Teach your child to ask for help from you or another adult when they are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

Additional Tips:

  1. Maintain a Calm and Consistent Presence: It’s important to remain calm and composed even when faced with challenging situations.
  2. Avoid Comparing Children: Comparing children can exacerbate rivalry and damage self-esteem. Focus on celebrating each child’s unique strengths and talents.
  3. Seek Professional Support: If sibling rivalry or tantrums are severe or causing significant stress, consider seeking professional support from a child therapist or counselor.
  4. Patience is Key: Building strong sibling relationships and managing tantrums takes time, patience, and consistent effort.

By implementing these strategies and fostering a nurturing environment, you can help your children develop healthy sibling relationships and navigate the challenges of shared spaces and emotions. With patience, understanding, and a toolbox of effective strategies, you can create a peaceful and harmonious home for your entire family.

How Dr. Sumeet Dhawan Can Help:


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *