Battle Zone: The Shared Bedroom
The Face-Off: Your 4-year-old played with your 6-year-old's truck without permission. In retaliation, the 6-year-old has beheaded her little sister's beloved doll.
What's Going On: Competing for your attention may be the number-one rivalry trigger, but sharing -- arguing over space and possessions -- is at the heart of most sibling conflict. And the closer the quarters, the more fodder there is for fighting.
Keeping the Peace: When children share a bedroom, it's important that each gets the opportunity to express himself. That way, they're less likely to take out frustrations on each other. Let each kid pick out his own sheets and put up pictures he likes on the wall over his bed. Make sure each child has a shelf where he can keep any off-limits possessions from his sibling.
Also, ask your kids to work together to create room rules. Some ideas: "You can't take my stuffed animals unless you ask me for them first," or "This room is for both of us, so we can't slam the door and keep somebody out." As kids learn to share, they'll hone skills such as taking turns, respecting others, and negotiating, says Nancy Samalin, author of Loving Each One Best: A Caring and Practical Approach to Raising Siblings. But keep in mind that everyone needs a room of one's own (at least metaphorically). Sometimes siblings simply need time apart from each other. Make sure that you occasionally arrange separate playdates or activities for each. And even when they're home together, make sure they each have space to do their own thing without having to share 50-50. Being proactive about making sure each of your children gets enough one-on-one time with you will go a long way toward ending rivalry. The last thing you want to do is inadvertently foster competition. That means you must resist the urge to compare behavior, abilities, or temperaments -- and always stay on message about how your love for each kid is completely equal.