How to manage sibling rivalry
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How to Manage Sibling Rivalry [Mom Guide to Promoting Harmony]

Sibling rivalry is a common phenomenon that occurs when siblings compete or struggle for attention, resources, or parental affection. This phenomenon is common in almost every family with two or more siblings. However, it is very important to control sibling rivalry else it may cause bigger issues among siblings in the future. In this article, we will delve into tips to manage sibling rivalry fully, but before that, we will look at what sibling rivalry is, its common causes, and its effects.

Jill: What causes sibling rivalry?
Tim: Having more than one kid!

Tim Allen

Table of Contents

What is Sibling Rivalry

Have you ever noticed your kids trying to compete for almost everything? Jealousy and conflicts arise between them. This should not bother you yet, it is normal, and it is a part of sibling dealings influenced by factors like age differences, limited parental attention, and the need for personal space and possessions.

How each child will display this sibling rivalry depends on the child’s unique makeup as they vie for attention and validation from parents. Age differences can intensify rivalry, with older siblings feeling dominated while the younger ones strive for freedom from any form of confinement. If the parents’ attention is limited or divided among multiple siblings, it leads to feelings of neglect and rivalry for resources.

Sometimes, sibling rivalry is caused by the battle for personal space and possession. Siblings become possessive and defensive, clashing over privacy and ownership of belongings. However, don’t look at sibling rivalry as an entirely negative phenomenon, it has some positive angles to it like growth development, resilience, and essential life skills like negotiation and empathy.

Nevertheless, you must also note that unresolved rivalry can negatively impact emotional well-being and family dynamics, straining relationships and hindering effective communication. Therefore, you must learn everything you need to know about sibling rivalry so as to understand the underlying factors that help manage and minimize conflicts, creating a harmonious family environment where siblings coexist with respect and cooperation.

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Common Cause of Sibling Rivalry

There are several factors that contribute to sibling rivalry. These may include:

1. Age Differences:

Because of conflict of interest and needs between siblings of different ages, there’s every tendency for disagreements between these siblings, and this can lead to conflicts when trying to share resources or engage in activities together.

2. Limited Parental Attention:

Absent parenting also caused sibling rivalry. When parents give more attention to work, other responsibilities, or even to the needs of younger children, and less attention to their older kids, this can lead to sibling rivalry.

3. Competition for Resources:

Allocation of toys, bedrooms, or other possessions can create a sense of rivalry and trigger fights between siblings.

4. Personality Differences:

As earlier said, sibling rivalry is not necessarily an entirely negative situation, differences in personality can even cause sibling rivalry. Every child is designed differently and with a different temperament. So, this alone is enough to cause conflict between siblings.

5. Birth Order:

The position of a child in the birth order can affect their role within the family, and older siblings may struggle to adjust to a new sibling.

Effects of Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry, if left unaddressed, can have various negative effects on children, including:

1. Emotional Distress:

If sibling conflict and competition persist, it can lead to prolonged feelings of anger, jealousy, and resentment among siblings.

2. Reduced Self-Esteem:

It is shocking but it may interest you to know that if you do not manage sibling rivalry in your home, it can cause low self-esteem and a sense of inadequacy in your children.

3. Strained Relationships:

Unresolved conflicts can damage sibling relationships, leading to long-lasting hatred and difficulty in communication between them.

4. Impaired Social Skills:

If you allow your children to grow up in a highly competitive and toxic environment, they may struggle to develop healthy social skills and cooperative behaviour.

Tips to Manage Sibling Rivalry

1. Encourage Open Communication

Teach and encourage your children on expressing their feelings and concerns openly. Get them to that point where they can be free to air their views and share their emotions without fear of judgment or punishment.


  • If you want your children to express their feelings and concerns openly, create a safe space for them. At least that is the best you can do for them.
  • Without judgment or favouritism, please, actively listen to each child’s perspective
  • Teach them effective communication skills, such as using “I” statements and active listening. Because sometimes kids don’t listen to get the other person’s view, they want mom and dad to listen to them alone.

2. Promote Individuality and Positive Reinforcement

The unique qualities and achievements of each child are very important to that child; therefore, you must learn to recognize and appreciate their wins. Celebrating their individual strengths promotes a healthy sense of self-worth.


  • Every child has a unique quality and at least one achievement they are proud of, always recognize and appreciate the greatness in each child.
  • Celebrate their individual strengths and talents.
  • Provide specific and genuine praise to boost their self-esteem.

3. Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries

Teach, emphasize, and model respect, kindness, and cooperation for them. Establish clear rules and boundaries for their behaviour, and ensure that the consequences for breaking the rules are consistent and fair for each child.


  • Establish clear rules and consequences for behaviour, emphasizing respect and kindness.
  • Ensure that rules apply to all children equally and consistently.
  • To promote a sense of ownership and responsibility, discuss and involve your children in creating the family rules.

4. Foster Cooperative Activities

Get your children engaged in activities that require collaboration and cooperation, such as board games, art projects, or household chores. This promotes teamwork and fosters a sense of shared achievement.


  • Encourage and facilitate activities that require collaboration and teamwork.
  • Engage them in projects where they can work together towards a common goal.
  • Provide opportunities for joint problem-solving and decision-making.

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5. Teach Conflict Resolution Skills

Don’t think your children are too little to understand topics like conflict resolution, teach them and make it as simple as you can. Start by educating them on the importance of active listening, compromise, and finding win-win solutions. Encourage them to resolve their disagreements peacefully and show them their importance.


  • Guide your children in resolving conflicts peacefully by teaching them negotiation and compromise.
  • Help them understand different perspectives and find win-win solutions.
  • Model healthy conflict resolution by demonstrating respect and effective communication during conflicts.

6. Treat Each Child Fairly

By any means avoid favoritism and treat each child fairly and equally. Be mindful of showing equal attention, praise, and affection to all your children. Favouritism is the main cause of sibling rivalry, you must avoid it.


  • Avoid favouritism and ensure equal attention, praise, and opportunities for all your children.
  • Allocate resources and privileges fairly, considering each child’s needs and interests.
  • Address any perceived inequalities promptly and transparently.

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7. Allocate Special Time for Each Child

Set aside one-on-one time with each child to give them undivided attention. And make sure the individual time you give to each child is equal. This helps them feel valued and appreciated as individuals.


  • Schedule regular one-on-one time with each child to provide individual attention and strengthen your bond.
  • Engage in activities that they enjoy and make them feel valued as individuals.
  • Use this time to have meaningful conversations and listen to their thoughts and concerns.

8. Encourage Sibling Bonding Activities

Always find time to take your kids out for game nights, family good times, or collaborative activities and projects. These activities strengthen the sibling bond. Encouraging positive interactions can help reduce rivalry.


  • Organize a surprise outing for your children
  • Organize in-house games or movie nights for everyone.
  • Provide opportunities for shared experiences and create lasting memories together.

9. Foster Empathy and Understanding

Children are emotional beings, they feel too, and they understand too. So, teach them to empathize with each other’s perspectives and feelings. Explain and encourage them to imagine how their actions may impact their siblings.


  • Use scenarios to communicate what the world would have been without their siblings
  • Encourage them to put themselves in their sibling’s shoes and imagine how their actions may impact them.
  • Guide them to express empathy and offer support when their sibling is going through a difficult time.

10. Be a Positive Role Model

Children learn by observing and imitating their parents’ actions. Therefore, model respectful and cooperative behavior in your interactions with your children, your spouse, and with others.


  • Avoid disrespecting your spouse or others in their presence.
  • Demonstrate effective problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Show them how to handle disagreements calmly and respectfully.

11. Avoid Comparisons

Please, by any means do not compare your children’s achievements, abilities, or behavior. Treat each child individually according to their abilities. Focus on each child’s progress and encourage them to set personal goals rather than competing with their siblings.


  • Teach them about their individual uniqueness and strength.
  • Focus on each child’s individual progress and strengths rather than pitting them against each other.
  • Encourage them to set personal goals and celebrate their own accomplishments.

12. Encourage Problem-Solving

Educate and guide your children on the processes of solving problems when conflicts arise. Help them identify the underlying issues and brainstorm solutions.


  • Teach them how to analyze a problem
  • Help them identify the underlying issues and brainstorm solutions together.
  • Educate them on how to compromise and find mutually satisfactory resolutions.

13. Teach Negotiation and Compromise

Educate your children about the middle ground, and let them understand that there’s always room for negotiation and compromise in conflict. Encourage them to always find mutually satisfactory solutions to disagreements.


  • Teach your children the importance of negotiation and compromise in resolving conflicts.
  • Encourage them to find a middle ground and seek mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Help them practice effective communication skills to express their needs and reach agreements.

14. Foster Independence

Don’t let your children grow up thinking that they cannot solve problems or resolve their conflicts without you. Support their autonomy by allowing them to decide and solve problems independently. This reduces dependency on parental intervention and encourages self-reliance.


  • Encourage them to express their individuality and develop their own identities.
  • Offer guidance and support when needed, but also allow them space to learn from their experiences.

15. Seek Professional Help When Necessary

If sibling rivalry persists and significantly affects the well-being of your children or family dynamics, consider seeking guidance from a family therapist or counsellor. Professional help can provide valuable strategies and support.


  • Consulting a professional can provide valuable strategies and support tailored to your family’s specific situation.
  • They can help navigate complex conflicts and provide tools to promote healthier sibling relationships.

Finally, on Managing Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up, but it is essential you manage it at the early stage to promote a harmonious family environment. We have looked at the causes and effects of sibling rivalry. If you can implement these practical tips to manage sibling rivalry, you can foster cooperation, empathy, and positive sibling relationships. Remember, nurturing a supportive sibling bond benefits children in their social interactions and prepares them for healthy relationships later in life.

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FAQs on Sibling Rivalry

How do I know when sibling rivalry becomes a serious problem?

When conflicts between siblings escalate to physical violence, prolonged emotional distress, or significantly impact their overall well-being, it is advisable to seek professional help.

Is it normal for siblings to fight all the time?

Occasional disagreements and conflicts between siblings are normal. However, if fights are frequent, and intense, and affect their daily lives, it may indicate a need for intervention.

Can sibling rivalry affect long-term sibling relationships?

Unresolved sibling rivalry can strain long-term sibling relationships, leading to ongoing conflicts and strained communication patterns.

Should parents intervene in every argument between siblings?

Parents should encourage their children to resolve conflicts on their own when possible. However, intervention may be necessary if the situation becomes aggressive or unfair.

How can parents promote a supportive sibling relationship?

Parents can promote a supportive sibling relationship by fostering open communication, promoting fairness, encouraging cooperation, and providing individual attention to each child’s needs and interests.

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