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5 Rational Tactics to Make Sibling Rivalry a Thing of the Past

It’s normal for siblings to fight from time to time. The key is to make sure their fighting doesn't cross the line into bullying behavior

Why do siblings fight?

Sibling rivalries are a standard feature of family life with a fine line. An “against-each-other” spirit is at the heart of these rivalries. It often manifests through jealousy, competitiveness, and fighting. Sibling rivalries can arise if your children:

  • Are trying to define themselves as individuals and to stand out from one another.
  • Have different personalities, ages, and interests.
  • Compete for attention, discipline, or responsiveness from their parents.
  • Are competing for resources within the household.
  • Are acclimating to a new stepsibling relationship after the divorce or separation of their parents.
  • Are half-siblings that have experienced different upbringings or household situations.

The psychology of sibling rivalries

While it may be an everyday experience in most families, many psychologists say that sibling rivalries are not always healthy. A sibling rivalry can result in a lifetime of hatred and resentment, especially if the altercations between siblings become angry, jealous, vengeful, or disrespectful.

Two sisters upset with each other

How to combat sibling rivalry

Typical brothers and sisters are going to fight from time to time, and stepsiblings are no exception. The key is ensuring their fighting doesn’t cross the line into bullying behavior. Here are a few methods to reduce the intensity of sibling rivalries.

Let siblings fight fair

Avoid getting in the middle of an argument unless a child is in danger of getting hurt. Children need to learn how to handle conflict and resolve issues among themselves through negotiation and compromise. Plus, every time you step in, there is the chance that one child will feel like you are favoring the other child. If you must step into a situation, try not to resolve it for your children. Separate your children, let them cool down in different spaces, and bring them back together to negotiate a solution.

Children angry with each other

Don’t compare siblings

While noticing differences between your children is natural, talking about those differences can have a negative effect on your children’s relationship with one another. Especially in cases of a sibling rivalry, try not to comment on those differences. Every time you do, there is a chance that one child will feel like you are favoring the other child. It’s especially important to avoid comparisons between stepsiblings to prevent one from feeling less valuable than the other.

Handle conversations and discipline separately

No one appreciates it when someone talks behind their back, so don’t discuss one child with the other. Also, don’t discipline one child in front of the other, as it can be uncomfortable and unpleasant for both children. Take your child to a private area to administer punishment or have a meaningful discussion. Treat your children the way you want to be treated.

Children not sharing toys

Set ground rules

Household rules are essential, so set ground rules for how your family members will treat one another. These can involve guidelines like no hitting, cursing, name-calling, etc. Let your children help make these rules as well as decide on what the consequences will be when someone breaks the rules. Enforce these rules consistently and fairly.

Allocate for alone time

Every child needs to feel unique and valued, and this sometimes requires kids to need time to themselves. Allow siblings space for “me” time where they can:

  • Have special access to the television to watch their favorite show.
  • Spend one-on-one time with a parent doing an activity they enjoy.
  • Enjoy a special space or toy that is not shared with their sibling.

If you and your co-parent are struggling with managing your children’s sibling rivalry, communicate with each other so you can address it together. If your children continue to struggle with an unhealthy sibling rivalry, talking to a counselor or therapist may be a helpful tool. Regardless of the solution, TalkingParents can be a great resource for those navigating the co-parenting journey with sibling children. Learn more about how TalkingParents gives parents the tools to co-parent successfully.

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