Ask Sarah: When Things Aren't Fair Between Siblings

Parenting expert Sarah Rosensweet shares tips for when one sibling feels left out of activities and events the other gets invited to.

Ask Sarah: When Things Aren't Fair Between Siblings

Getty / Jill Lehmann Photography

Struggling with tantrums, bedtime boundaries, or simply wondering how to raise happy, confident kids? Sarah Rosensweet offers peaceful parenting advice to help families find balance.

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Q: My two-year-old has a total meltdown every time his older (four-year-old) sister is invited to something and he isn't. She gets lots of birthday party invites and he can't always come. He's too little to really understand why, how do we handle this so she still feels like she has things that are just hers.

-Mom of two, ages four and two

sisters sitting on the floor back to back looking angry iStock

A: Oh, poor little guy! I’m sure it breaks your heart.

This is the thing, though: You will never be able to make things equal or fair between your kids.

There will always be birthdays, playdates and, of course, their age difference that will make for lots of unfair situations down the road.


And if you try to make it fair, that can create its own set of problems. Take your example: If you don’t let your daughter go, she misses out on the party. If you get your son an invite to the birthday party, you are sending the message to both kids that you don’t think he can handle the disappointment of staying home.

When we find ourselves in “fix it” mode when it comes to our child’s difficult feelings, we are preventing them from developing resilience.

Resilience is one of the greatest predictors of a happy and successful life. Resilience is not that we don’t get upset about things; it’s that we can recover from failure or disappointment.

As parents, every time we welcome our child’s big feelings with empathy and compassion-- and don’t try to fix it or tell them not to be upset- we are sending the message, “You can handle this.” When we don't fret or shut down their feelings, we are teaching them that feelings are not an emergency.

When your son is upset, focus on keeping yourself calm and loving and empathize with him about how hard it is. Empathy doesn’t necessarily mean using words. Empathy is being with another person in their suffering.


It’s really okay that he’s upset. Your love and understanding will help him recover- and every time you do this, you are helping him to grow more and more resilient.

Need support with other parenting challenges? Our Ask Sarah series covers topics like how to help with anxiety and build confidence, how to reduce bedtime struggles and how to prepare for playdates.


Sarah Rosensweet is a certified peaceful parenting coach, speaker, and educator. She lives in Toronto with her husband and her 15 and 18-year-old kids. Her 22-year-old son has launched.

Peaceful parenting is a non-punitive, connection-based approach that uses firm limits with lots of empathy. Sarah works one-on-one virtually with parents all over the world to help them go from frustrated and overwhelmed to “we’ve got this!”


Sarah offers a free course, How To Stop Yelling At Your Kids, so that you can be the parent you want to be. Read more at:  or listen to her top-rated parenting podcast, The Peaceful Parenting Podcast, wherever you get your podcasts!

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