How to Reduce Sibling Rivalry

Parents are often concerned about their children fighting and arguing with each other.

Excessive fighting can be very frustrating and can cause severe stress for parents and children alike.

Jealousy problems often start soon after the birth of a younger sibling (in some cases, even before the younger sibling is born).

Although sibling rivalry usually decreases as children grow older and develop better language and social skills, the conflict between siblings often continues throughout childhood and sometimes even into adulthood.

In a moment I’ll share some strategies to help reduce the conflict. But first, let’s take a quick look at the problem and its causes.

When children are not treated equally, they are more likely to be aggressive towards their siblings.

In fact, conflict amongst siblings is very common and – within reason – can even help children to learn social skills and develop problem-solving skills.

It becomes more of a problem when the behaviour is very frequent or extreme.

An occasional “vigorous argument” or “rough play” is to be expected  but causing physical injury or screaming at one another is clearly not ok.

(If you’re concerned about excessive or extreme sibling conflict in your family, some focused counselling sessions for your children and some parent coaching sessions for you may be helpful.)

These are some of the most common causes of sibling rivalry:

  • Competition for specific items such as food, toys, books, an ipad, a favourite dish or cup, etc.
  • Competition for parental attention
  • Difficulty sharing, taking turns, and accepting they have lost in a game

Sound familiar? 🙂

Fighting is more common when siblings are of the same gender and are very close in age.

Children’s temperament, age, and social skills (such as language and  problem-solving ability) also contribute to how often siblings fight and how capable they are of solving the conflict by themselves.

When children are not treated equally, they are more likely to be aggressive towards their siblings.

Children learn from observing their environment; if their parents fight and argue a lot, or if they watch violent programs and play violent video games, children are likely to copy these behaviours.

It is very important to make each child feel special, so provide individual attention to each child.

So now you know a bit more about the problem and what contributes to it, here are four ideas to help ease sibling rivalry:

1. Whenever possible, don’t interfere.

Children need to learn to solve conflicts on their own. They need to learn to negotiate and cope with disagreement.

They also need to learn to choose which battles are worth fighting for.

These skills do not always “come naturally” and some solution-focused practical counselling sessions with an experienced child psychologist are often helpful.

>> Click here to learn more about counselling

2. If you need to intervene, be impartial.

Taking sides with one child will only make the other child more angry and resentful.

Separate your children until they are calm. Then encourage your children to talk the problem through without blaming or pointing fingers at each other.

Encourage them to talk about their feelings in an appropriate and respectful manner.

If required, guide them into solving the conflict in such a way that they both compromise and ‘win’ by meeting at a middle point.

If you would like some professional help with parenting strategies you might like to consider some coaching sessions for parents.

>> Click here to learn more about parent coaching

3. Be as fair as you can be.

Try to treat your children as equally as possible (not always easy!) and ensure that each child is allocated a fair division of chores and privileges.

It is very important to make each child feel special, so provide individual attention to each child.

4. Catch them being good.

Whenever you “catch” your children playing nicely, sharing their toys, or reaching an agreement without fighting, praise them.

Let them know that you are proud to see that behaviour!

You can also set a reward system in which playing nicely earns them a privilege, such as extra time watching TV or playing a video game, or a reward, such as a visit to the park.

If you are concerned about how your children relate with one another and would like some professional advice, please click the button below to request an initial 30 minute consultation (this appointment is just for you without your child present).

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