Children and Sibling Rivalry: Tips for Parents

Sibling rivalry. Those two words can strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned parent. The constant bickering, the wrestling matches over toys, the cries of “They started it!” – it’s enough to make you long for peace and quiet. But take heart, parents! Sibling rivalry, though frustrating, is a perfectly normal part of childhood development.

A study by the University of Cambridge in 2017 sheds light on the positive side of sibling rivalry. Researchers observed that even mild forms of sibling competition can contribute to a child’s social development. This is because navigating those conflicts allows children to understand and respond to the thoughts and feelings of others which is a crucial skill for navigating social interactions throughout life. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of sibling rivalry, exploring the causes, the effects, and most importantly, offering tips to help you navigate the stormy seas of sibling squabbles.

What Causes Sibling Rivalry?

So, why exactly do siblings compete with each other?

There are several reasons:

Competition for Attention:

Young children crave their parents’ love and approval. When a new sibling arrives, they may feel their share of attention dwindling, leading to jealousy and rivalry.

Establishing Identity: 

As children grow, they begin to define themselves as individuals. They may compete with siblings to see who is stronger, smarter, or funnier, a natural part of self-discovery.

Personality Clashes:

Just like adults, siblings have different personalities. Some may be more outgoing, while others are more reserved. These differences can sometimes lead to friction.

Favoritism (Real or Perceived):

Even the most even-handed parents can unintentionally show favoritism towards one child. This perception can fuel resentment and rivalry.

The Effects of Sibling Rivalry

While some sibling rivalry is normal, excessive conflict can take a toll on children. Here are some potential effects to watch out for:

Low Self-Esteem:

Constant comparisons or feeling overshadowed by a sibling can damage a child’s self-worth.

Anxiety and Stress:

The tension of a strained sibling relationship can cause anxiety and stress in children.

Behavioural Problems:

Frustration from sibling rivalry can manifest as acting out, aggression, or withdrawal.

Taming the Rivalry: Tips for Parents

Now, let’s move on to the good stuff – how to manage sibling rivalry and foster a more peaceful household.

Celebrate Individuality:

Help your children recognize and appreciate their unique strengths and interests. Avoid comparisons that can breed resentment.

Equal Time, Not Equal Treatment:

While fairness is important, children have different needs. Tailor your attention to address those needs, not just give equal time slots.

Foster Cooperation:

Encourage siblings to work together on projects or chores. This teaches teamwork and problem-solving skills.

Listen Without Judgment:

When conflicts arise, listen to each child’s perspective without taking sides. Help them communicate their needs and feelings effectively.

Teach Conflict Resolution Skills:

Equip your children with tools to resolve conflicts peacefully. Role-play scenarios and guide them through compromise and negotiation.

Create One-on-One Time:

Make time for one-on-one activities with each child to strengthen your bond and make them feel valued. Consider sending them to summer camps or enrolling them in extracurricular activities to let them experience adventures away from the family, helping them appreciate the value of their siblings.

Mind Your Words:

Avoid labelling your children as the “troublemakers” or the “good ones.” These labels can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Focus on the Positive:

Acknowledge and praise positive interactions between siblings. This reinforces good behaviour and encourages cooperation.

Lead by Example:

Model respectful communication and conflict resolution skills in your own interactions with others.


Sibling rivalry is a marathon, not a sprint. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, staying patient and consistent is key. By implementing these tips, you can foster a healthy and supportive sibling relationship that will last a lifetime. With understanding and proactive measures, you can turn sibling rivalry into sibling camaraderie, ensuring a stronger bond between your children as they grow.

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