Sibling Rivalry;  photo by Marcin Chady, Source: flickrCredit: Photo by Marcin Chady

Sibling rivalry is common; but there are ways to reduce the tension and negative behavior between sisters and brothers when another family member is added to the mix.  There is a multitude of factors that can impact the relationship between siblings; adding another little one to the family dynamic is just one factor.

Even in ancient times the relationship between siblings has the potential to be tumultuous.  Possibly the first trouble between siblings documented was the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible.  While a child in today’s family may not plot murder; there is often a desire for the new sibling to “be gone.”

A Significant Influence is the Parents’ Attitudes

 A parent’s attitude, even the most subtle, can be noticed by their children. Parents need to teach their children how to resolve conflicts in appropriate ways.  Children can learn how to resolve conflicts on their own by watching how their parents resolve conflicts.  Children practice this with siblings; it is beneficial for parents to allow their children to practice conflict resolution and only step in when potential injury is imminent.

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Treat Each Child as an Indvidual

One of the hardest aspects of parenting multiple children is treating them all as individuals without the appearance of favoring any one child; and without comparing aspects of one to another.  Comparing siblings can cause jealousy and resentment among children.  Parents often compare siblings directly; but they can also compare them indirectly by highlighting the positives of one at the cost of another.  It is more healthy for sibling relationships and relationships between parents and their children, to handle situations with the child who is involved without bringing sisters and/or brothers into the mix.

The Needs of Children Should be Acknowledged

Parents often put children in situations that promote guilt or set siblings up for resentments toward each other.  Though this is not usually done on purpose; parents do need to be aware their actions can play a role in sibling rivalry.  This can happen when a child who is not developmentally able to handle responsibility is left in charge.

Parents do not always have to drop everything to attend to a child’s need.  At times it is better to give children the opportunity to work situations out for themselves; yet be prepared to step in when needed.  This can give children confidence and increase self-esteem. 

Family Dynamics Change with Addition of a New Sibling

Just as any group establishes cohesiveness; a family has routines and patterns unique to its members. When a new baby or child is added to the family unit, this disrupts the cohesiveness.  This new family member has its own character traits and personality whichwill impact the family and facilitate changes.  Adjustment to these changes is influenced by several factors of the established family members.  Age, gender, sibling position and size of the family unit are all factors in how individual members usually cope with adjusting to new family members.  Temperaments of the individuals will also be a factor in how well siblings get along.

Special needs children often present an increase in the risk of sibling rivalry erupting.  These children may require more attention than other children and this can cause jealousy and resentment.  Parents can set the tone for appropriate attitudes and behaviors to assist children in accepting new family members.

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The Aging Family

The needs of children change as they age and develop emotionally.  The different developmental milestones of children can indicate how accepting they will be of a new family member.  Toddlers generally do not like to share; older children have strong concepts of equality and fairness; teens want independence and are preparing to launch from the family.

Accepting new sisters and brothers can be greatly influenced by parents and care givers.  Parents teach acceptance and interrelationship skills by example.  Children practice these skills within the family unit and then in their social networks.  The skills learned carry children into adulthood and give them tools to teach their children.


The copyright of the article Reducing Sibling Rivalry When New Family Members are Added is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.