Parental Tips

The Sibling Rivalry: Practical Tips for Promoting Peace Amongst Children

That first time you see your kids play together somehow makes it all seem worth it. Their chatter and giggles fill the home, but then in an instant that laughter turns to crying and shouting and suddenly an afternoon of refereeing stretches ahead of you. It’s perfectly normal. But that doesn’t help when you’re in the midst of it.

If this sounds familiar, then hopefully this guide will give some practical tips and insights to help you navigate the ups and downs of sibling relationships like a pro.


What is Sibling Rivalry

what is sibling rivalry


Sibling rivalry is common in everyday family life—it’s like the weather, always there, sometimes mild, sometimes a full-blown storm. It’s only natural that competition, jealousy, and conflict can arise between siblings. From arguing over toys to competing for their parent’s attention, rivalry shapes the bond between siblings as they grow and learn together.

The Roots and Causes of Sibling Rivalry

The roots of sibling rivalry lie in various factors that influence the dynamics between siblings. One major cause comes down to the differences between children, whether in age, personality, or temperament. These disparities can lead to clashes over shared items, parental attention, or differences in interests.

Additionally, changes in family dynamics, such as the arrival of a new sibling or changes in parental attention, can trigger feelings of jealousy and competition among siblings. Parental behavior plays a significant role, as favoritism or perceived unequal treatment can fuel resentment, animosity and even hate between siblings.

It’s important to understand these underlying causes when navigating and mitigating sibling rivalry. By addressing these factors head-on and fostering an environment of empathy, respect, and understanding, parents can help nurture healthier relationships among their children.

Expressions of Sibling Rivalry

sibling fighting


Sibling rivalry can manifest in various forms, ranging from seemingly harmless competition to more overt displays of jealousy and animosity. Some common expressions of sibling rivalry are:

  • Competition: Siblings may vie for parental attention, academic achievements, or recognition in activities, leading to a sense of rivalry and one-upmanship between them.
  • Jealousy: Jealous and envious feelings often crop up when a sibling perceives that another is receiving preferential treatment or more attention from parents. This can create resentment and friction within the sibling relationship.
  • Power struggles: Siblings may battle for control or dominance, be it over household chores, decision-making, or access to shared items like toys and gadgets.These conflicts can leave emotional tracks that linger and affect their relationship dynamics.
  • Comparison: Constant comparisons between siblings, whether by parents, relatives, or friends, can heighten feelings of inadequacy and fuel rivalry as children try to measure up to perceived standards or expectations.
  • Emotional dynamics: Sibling relationships are complex and can be fraught with emotions such as resentment, rivalry, affection, and loyalty. Conflicting emotions may lead to tensions that play out in various interactions between siblings, shaping their response to each other’s actions.

Recognizing these different forms of sibling rivalry and understanding the psychology behind them is helpful for parents when addressing underlying issues and promoting healthier relationships among their children. Break the cycle of rivalry by encouraging empathy, cooperation, and positive communication between siblings.

Impact of Parental Engagement on Sibling Relationships

how to help siblings get along

Vadym Pastukh/

When parents are not actively involved in addressing sibling rivalry, the effects can be far-reaching and impact various aspects of children’s development and family dynamics.

Here are some potential consequences of unchecked sibling rivalry:

  • Strained relationships: Persistent rivalry and conflict between siblings can strain their relationships, leading to resentment, animosity, and a lack of trust or mutual support. If left unresolved, strained relationships may persist as adults, affecting family dynamics in difficult ways and the meaning of family bonds.
  • Low self-esteem: Siblings who constantly feel compared to or overshadowed by one another may develop low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. This can impact their confidence, identity formation, and overall sense of self-worth.
  • Negative emotional impact: The emotional toll of ongoing sibling rivalry shouldn’t be underestimated, it can be significant, leading to stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Children may experience emotional distress, insecurity, and a sense of being unloved or undervalued within the family unit.
  • Behavioral problems: Sibling rivalry that escalates into aggressive behavior or conflict may lead to behavioral problems or disorder both within and outside the family context. Children may exhibit defiance, aggression, or social withdrawal, affecting their interactions with peers and authority figures.
  • Parental stress: Ignoring sibling rivalry can also take a toll on parental well-being, increasing stress levels and exacerbating conflicts within the family. Parents may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or powerless in managing sibling dynamics, further perpetuating the cycle of rivalry and tension.
  • Impact on family harmony: Sustained sibling rivalry can disrupt family harmony and cohesion, creating a tense or hostile environment for everyone. This can affect family communication and bonding, harming the overall quality of family life and potentially escalating into a family war.

By taking proactive steps to deal with underlying issues, parents can prevent these effects and help their children to get along. Encouraging open communication and teaching conflict resolution skills can help reduce the frequency and intensity of fights between siblings.

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Tips and Strategies for Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

sibling issues


When it’s the end of a long day, it can be tempting to “let them sort it out themselves”. This approach can sometimes work, but at some point parental engagement is required.

Addressing sibling rivalry requires proactive parenting strategies aimed at fostering cooperation, conflict resolution skills, and positive sibling interactions. Stop and listen to each child’ perspective. They need to be equipped and shown how to resolve their conflict.

Here are some effective tips to handle sibling rivalry and promoting a harmonious family environment:

  • Promote individuality: Encourage each child to express their unique interests, strengths, and talents without feeling overshadowed by their siblings. Celebrate their individual achievements and avoid comparing them to one another.
  • Foster open communication: Create a safe space for siblings to express their feelings, concerns, and grievances without fear of judgment or reprisal. Encourage active listening, empathy, and constructive dialogue to resolve conflicts peacefully.
  • Set clear expectations: Establish clear ground rules and expectations for behavior, emphasizing mutual respect, kindness, and cooperation among siblings. Consistency is key in enforcing rules and addressing any violations promptly and fairly.
  • Teach conflict-resolution skills: Empower children with effective problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills to help them navigate disagreements and disputes with their siblings. Encourage them to use “I” statements, actively listen to each other’s perspectives, and work together to find mutually acceptable solutions.
  • Promote teamwork and cooperation: Encourage siblings to collaborate on shared tasks or activities, fostering a sense of teamwork. Highlight the benefits of working together and celebrating collective achievements.
  • Lead by example: Model positive behaviors and communication techniques in your interactions with your children and other family members. Demonstrate patience, empathy, and compromise, and avoid engaging in favoritism or displaying negative conflict resolution tactics.
  • Provide individual attention: Include some one-on-one time in your routine with each child to nurture their bond and strengthen their connection with you. Shape the time around their interests and preferences, reinforcing their sense of value and importance within the family.
  • Encourage empathy and understanding: Help children develop empathy and a sense of perspective by encouraging them to consider their siblings’ feelings, experiences, and viewpoints. Discuss how their actions impact others and promote acts of kindness and compassion.
  • Create opportunities for shared experiences: Plan regular cool family activities, outings, or traditions that promote bonding and shared experiences among siblings. Encourage cooperation and collaboration in these shared moments to build a lasting strong connection between them.

By implementing these proactive strategies and fostering a supportive family environment, parents can effectively deal with sibling rivalry and cultivate a positive sibling relationship based on mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation. Additionally, parents can help their children understand that things will not always go their way and that compromise and communication are essential skills for resolving conflicts.

Welcoming a New Family Member: Preparing Your Child for a Sibling’s Arrival

sibling conflict

Yuganov Konstantin/

Welcoming a new addition to the family can be an exciting yet challenging transition for children, especially if they’re used to being the center of attention. Here are some helpful tips for preparing your child ahead of the birth of a new sibling:

  • Involve your child: Involve your child in the pregnancy journey by discussing the upcoming arrival of their new sibling, sharing ultrasound images, and involving them in baby-related preparations such as choosing nursery decor or selecting baby clothes.
  • Address any concerns: Take the time to listen to your child’s thoughts, feelings, and questions about the new baby. Validate their emotions and reassure them that their love and place in the family won’t diminish with the arrival of a new sibling.
  • Read books about siblings: Explore age-appropriate books or stories about siblings and new babies to help your child understand the concept of becoming an older sibling and what to expect. These types of stories can be great conversation starters to discuss their feelings and expectations.
  • Practice role-playing: Encourage your child to role-play scenarios involving the new baby, such as feeding, diaper changing, or soothing. This can help them feel more prepared and involved in caring for their sibling once they arrive.
  • Arrange sibling bonding time: Plan special activities or outings for your child and their new sibling to bond and create positive associations. Encourage gentle interactions, such as talking to the baby, singing songs, or helping with gentle touch under your supervision.
  • Maintain routines: As much as possible, maintain your child’s familiar, predictable routines and schedules to provide stability and predictability during the transition. Consistency can help alleviate anxiety and reassure your child that they’re still an important part of the family.
  • Celebrate their role as an older sibling: Emphasize the importance of their new role as a big brother or sister and highlight the unique responsibilities and privileges that come with it. Praise their helpfulness, kindness, and patience in welcoming and caring for their new sibling. But always remember to emphasize their helping you with the new baby is a choice, it isn’t their job to help change the diaper if they don’t want to.
  • Offer reassurance: Reassure your child that your love for them remains unchanged and unconditional, emphasizing that there’s always enough love to go around. Encourage them to express their feelings and concerns openly, and validate their emotions with empathy and understanding.

By proactively preparing your child for the arrival of a new sibling and involving them in the process, you can help ease their transition and foster a positive sibling bond from the very beginning.

Fostering Harmony Amidst Sibling Rivalry

sibling conflict resolution


Sibling relationships can be complicated, rivalry can be as common as laughter and as challenging as it is rewarding. As parents, our role in nurturing these bonds is pivotal, shaping not just the dynamics within the home but also the character and resilience of our children. It’s crucial to foster an environment where friendship can flourish amidst occasional conflicts.

Remember these guiding principles:

  • Each child is unique, with their own strengths, quirks, and needs. Celebrate these differences rather than fueling comparisons, and encourage cooperation over competition.
  • Model empathy, kindness, and respectful communication in your interactions with your children and among siblings. Your actions speak volumes, shaping their understanding of healthy relationships and conflict resolution.
  • While it may be tempting to intervene at the first sign of disagreement, recognize that conflict is a natural part of sibling dynamics. If your children are equipped with the tools to navigate disagreements, you need to allow some space for them to be put into practice.
  • Daily life can quickly pass by, carve out dedicated time for one-on-one interactions with each child. These moments of undivided attention not only strengthen your bond but also reaffirm each child’s unique value within the family unit.
  • Remain attuned to the changing needs and dynamics of your children’s relationships. Your presence and understanding can make all the difference in fostering a sense of security and belonging.

Join the conversation: How do you navigate sibling conflict in your family? Share your experiences and insights below, and let’s support each other on this journey of parenting and siblinghood.


jealous siblings

Dasha Petrenko/

How do you deal with sibling rivalry?

Ways of dealing with sibling rivalry involve fostering open communication, setting clear boundaries, and teaching conflict resolution skills. Encourage empathy, validate feelings, and provide opportunities for each child to express themselves. Additionally, prioritize quality time with each child to strengthen individual bonds and reduce competition for attention.

What is an example of sibling rivalry?

An example of sibling rivalry could be when sisters or brothers argue over sharing toys, compete for attention, or tease. It can also manifest as jealousy or resentment towards a sibling’s achievements.

What age is sibling rivalry the worst?

Sibling rivalry can be most intense during early childhood and adolescence when children are vying for parental attention and asserting their independence. However, the intensity of sibling fighting can vary depending on signs such as personality differences, age gaps, and family dynamics. With effective strategies in place, managing sibling rivalry can become easier over time as children learn to communicate and resolve conflicts more effectively.

What is normal sibling rivalry?

Normal sibling rivalry involves typical conflicts and disagreements between siblings over shared spaces, items, and parental attention. It provides opportunities for children to learn valuable social and emotional skills. However, it becomes problematic when it escalates into harmful behavior or significantly impacts family dynamics.

The picture on the front page: Alex Uksta/

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