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How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry

Parents of more than one child know that it isn’t always smooth sailing between siblings. Sibling rivalry might seem difficult to deal with, but there are ways you can encourage a better relationship between your children.

Understand the issues

Getting to the potential underlying cause of sibling squabbles could help you to solve the problem.

For example, maybe your children got along until the eldest decided they were too old to play make-believe anymore. In this case, try proposing activities the two children can still enjoy together, such as watching a movie, building a blanket fort, or the eldest child reading to the youngest.

Help your children resolve conflicts without fighting

According to Psychology Today, “research shows that children with poor sibling relationships are at higher risk for behavior problems and that sibling bullying is strongly correlated to peer bullying.”

Helping your children disagree without resorting to verbal arguments or physical injury will teach them how to respect each other. This is also a critical life skill for everyday life.

While taking sides in a sibling dispute isn’t advised, it’s important to discuss your child’s feelings with them, even if they may not be able to express themselves clearly. For example, if your children were fighting over a toy, it may be that the toy was a favorite of your eldest child, and they didn’t want to give it up. They might feel embarrassed about being considered a baby, so they resorted to forcibly taking the toy away from their sibling.

In this case, you could take your elder child aside for a calm discussion. Acknowledge your child’s feelings while reminding them that certain behaviors, such as hitting, are still inappropriate.

You can remind your older child that their younger sibling is still growing and learning, and suggest that your elder child bring other toys when playing with their sibling in the future. You can also teach them coping strategies for frustration, like taking deep breaths or even leaving the room.

Consider not stepping in

Sometimes, letting your children argue might be the best option. They can often be able to settle minor disagreements on their own. However, do keep an eye on the situation, and be prepared to step in if necessary, especially if the argument is escalating to physical or emotional harm.

Avoid making comparisons

No two children are alike, but it can be tempting to ask one child to try and do something like their sibling. However, your child may feel like they are being unfairly judged or compared, which can lead to resentment. Instead, identify and respect each child’s unique personality, motivations, and stage in life.

Also, competing for their parent’s attention is one of the most common factors in sibling rivalry. Giving your children individualized, positive attention separately may help to calm the situation overall.

While it may seem like sibling rivalry is never-ending, these tips can help your children live together more peacefully.

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