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Sibling Rivalry

By Edited Feb 11, 2014 1 4

Sibling Rivalry is unavoidable in a household where there are two or more siblings living together. It is normal and natural for brothers and sisters to feel competitive with one another and jealous of each other. As a parent it is hurtful, frustrating and upsetting to see your children arguing, fighting or behaving as if they do not like each other.Luckily there are many things you can do to help them to get a long better and to protect your sanity.

Try to encourage your children to communicate with each other. If they are screaming and shouting at each other, ask them to explain what happened and listen without taking sides. Repeat what they tell you so that they know that you have heard them. Once they have explained the situation, tell them that they need to speak respectfully to one another and find a way to solve their argument. Give them an incentive to solve the problem. If they are arguing over an item which belongs to neither of them then you can threaten to take the item away if they cannot find a reasonable way to share it or take turns. If the item belongs to one of them then you should let the owner decide what happens with their possession, you can ask them to consider their sibling's feelings and to calmly explain their decision to their sibling.

If one of your children runs to you complaining that their sibling has deliberately hurt them in some way, remember that unless you saw the event and what led up to the event it is very difficult to know what happened. First see to the needs of the hurt child, hug and soothe them and comment that it is not right for their sibling to do that to them. You can then check in with the accused sibling and ask them to explain what happened. If they deny any wrong doing, talk to them both about your expectations of them. You expect them to not harm or hurt each other's bodies, to respect each other and to tell you the truth. Show all siblings that you love and support them and that you have confidence in their ability to play nicely together. If you take sides when you do not have all the facts you could end up creating more animosity and competition.

When preventing sibling rivalry it is extremely important that you don't compare your children to each other. It can be a challenge to remember not to compare your children, "look your brother already has his shoes on" or the more obvious "why can't you be more tidy like your sister". Comparing your children to each other is a recipe for disaster. You are adding fuel to the rivalry that already exists. Try to stop yourself when you are about to compare them and find a new way to express what you are trying to tell your child. 

Spending one-on-one time with each of your children as often as you can is important to their relationship with you, with their siblings and to their self-esteem. Time spent talking to your child about their day and reading to them alone is valuable, it is sometimes hard to fit this time in when you have more than one child but it is highly beneficial. If you have children of different ages, staggering bedtime can help to create pockets of time where you can be with just one child. If one goes in the bath first and is old enough to play unsupervised, you can help another with their homework. Once your youngest gets out of the bath, the next oldest can go in the bath while the youngest gets one-on-one story time with you, and so on. From time to time at the weekend or any time where you have another adult to help you, try to take the kids out on their own so they can have prolonged time spent with their parent or parents. This will make them feel valued and special. Try to ensure that any siblings who do not get to go out on the trip that day are doing something equally fun.

If your children have their own bedrooms, allow them to set reasonable rules about knocking first and when it is OK to have company in their rooms. A child should be allowed time alone when they need it, if you have the space allow them the quiet time they need to recharge. If you do not have the space, get creative. Time spent away from each other will likely have a positive effect on your children's relationship.



Jun 23, 2011 9:56am
Great article! I am one of four and we were very competitive (I think we still are); the good thing is that it has helped me in my career and to progress in life.
Jun 23, 2011 11:30pm
Thank you :)
Oct 16, 2011 9:27am
Good article and helpful
Jul 13, 2014 1:59am
Good advice. It is hard to remain fair and impartial and to divide yourself into equal portions!
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