Sibling Rivalry, How To Deal With It

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Did you grow up with a brother or a sister? If so, you know exactly what this article is about. And if you are finding out what sibling rivalry is through your own kids, you probably feel like you’re observing “survival of the fittest” right before your very eyes.

Picking at each other.




Tattling on each other.

Dads, if you have more than one child, you get it. Right?

Sibling rivalry, and the issues it causes, can be very stressful for a parent because of the complexity of the situation – Do I intervene? Do I let them work it out on their own? if I step in, what kind of message am I sending?

The truth is, we have to deal with it. We won’t be able to prevent the quarrels and tattle-telling, but we can reduce the friction in a way that encourages our kids to work toward solutions instead of toward more conflict.

Sibling rivalry is not a problem to be solved. It’s a tension to be managed.

So, here are 5 helpful tips for managing the tension.

Know When to Intervene

Part of good leadership is knowing what battles are worth fighting and what can be left for another day. The same is true when it comes to parenting.

Your children are going to fight and they are going to argue. At some point, they might try to pull you in and ask you to choose sides. When that happens, don’t indulge them. Don’t stoop to their level.

Instead, tell them that if they can’t work it out on their own, you’re going to take the toy away/turn the iPad off/go home.

There are few caveats to “letting them be:”

  • Never let your children put themselves in danger. If you see that someone is going to be seriously hurt, please step in.
  • Help them debrief a situation that went well or that went poorly. After things calm down, ask them to talk about what happened.
  • “Letting them be,” at the right times, teaches your kids how to handle conflict and how to sort out differences on their own. Talk about a valuable life lesson!

Never Get Involved

I mentioned that, at some point, our children will ask us to engage in their fights with their sibling/siblings. The reality is that every time we get involved, the sibling rivalry only gets worse.

Why does it get worse? Your kids will see your intervention as “taking sides” which ultimately increases the competition between them.

Don’t get involved in their rivalry if at all possible. Remember that, by allowing them to resolve their own differences, you are enhancing their problem-solving skills and making sure things don’t escalate beyond where they need to be.

Be Careful with Punishment and Consequences

We naturally think that every bad behavior should be punished right away. After all, our kids need to learn and the best way to teach them is to address the problem at the moment. Right?

Maybe not.

If you have multiple kids, and you punish one of them in public and not the other one, you will increase the amount of teasing and picking from their siblings.

You may be completely justified in your consequences but unknowingly add to the sibling rivalry in your household.

One of the more effective ways to punish your children for misbehavior is to punish them in private. Don’t do it in front of family, the people at a restaurant, and (especially) their siblings. It will lead to more competitive in-fighting. way to stop kids from fighting is to keep all the punishments in private.

And here’s another pro-tip: Be consistent with your consequences. Make sure that each child gets the same punishment for the same behavior. Not because you’re teaching life is fair (because it’s not), but because you want to reduce the friction in your family.

Podcast Ep. 124 Sibling Rivalry – Reducing Conflict Between Kids

Spend One-on-One Time with your Kids

Sometimes, sibling rivalry escalates when our kids don’t get enough, or equal, time with their parents.

You probably feel a slight sense of guilt after reading that sentence. We’re busy. Being a dad ain’t easy! And finding time to spend, one-on-one with our children is extremely difficult to do.

The truth is that you can make your kids feel more secure by spending time with them. And when they feel more secure in who they are, they have less of a reason to fight with each other. Of course, let’s not be naive. This isn’t going to take away the sibling rivalry completely, but it will definitely help.

Stop Comparing

The last, helpful tip for managing sibling rivalry is to quit playing the comparison game. That means stop saying things like, “Look at your brother. Can’t you just be more like him?” or “The Johnson’s kids don’t act like this. Why do you?”

Our children are unique and have unique gifts and talents that are different from other kids. Every human being has strengths and weaknesses. In this respect, we are no different from our own kids.

When we compare them to other kids, or to their sibling, we unconsciously spark competition in our house. Along with increasing their insecurity, we give them a reason to one-up their brother or sister so that they get our affirmation. And that’s not good.

Like we already said, sibling rivalry is inevitable. It’s as old as time and will never fully go away. But by following our tips, you can manage the tension and give each child the ability to grow into the unique and awesome individual they are supposed to be.


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