Sibling Rivalry: How to Teach Your Children to Manage Conflict

It's natural for siblings to fight and argue. It's part of the natural ebb and flow of family life. Once children learn how to work through their differences, this very important family bond can flourish and grow strong. ‍

"He gets the chance to go out with his friend! How come I can't go?"

"You love him more than me!"

"I wish I didn’t have a sister!"

“You always ignore what she did and act as if it's all my fault.”

When you have more than one child, you've heard it all. Even though siblings might be the best of friends, it's uncommon to find a child that gets along with all of their siblings completely.

It's quite OK for siblings to have strong feelings, words, and behaviors. It's natural for siblings to fight and argue. It's part of the natural ebb and flow of family life. Different personalities and ages can play a role, but siblings frequently regard themselves as competitors, striving for an equal share of limited family resources (such as the restroom, TV remote, computer, or last piece of chocolate) and, most importantly, for parental attention.

It is how children learn to solve difficulties and develop skills that they may apply in different conflict situations. Sibling rivalry is also part of how children work out their place in the family.

A child's temperament and personality have a significant impact on his or her capacity to handle emotions, particularly anger and impatience. Some children have trouble controlling their anger, which might cause a reaction in a sibling.

Fighting between young children normally diminishes as they grow older and have more language, tolerance, and social skills. Some siblings will get along for the rest of their lives, while others will have years of getting along and then years of not getting along.

Sibling rivalry, according to Theodore Dreikurs, one of the founding fathers of positive parenting, is a child's desire to obtain their parents' attention. He stated that being involved as a parent is the worst thing a parent can do when it comes to sibling rivalry. Following that, a flurry of research proved that when parents keep out of their children's disputes, children fight less.

What causes sibling rivalry?

Children aren't always the most rational of human beings — especially younger children. Sometimes a minor disagreement can quickly escalate into a huge conflict, putting sibling relationships to its breaking point.  

1. Changing Needs

It's natural for children's developing needs, worries, and identities to influence how they interact with one another.

Toddlers, for example, are naturally possessive of their toys and stuff, and they're learning to impose their will at every opportunity. As a result, if a baby brother or sister picks up the toddler's toy, the older child may react aggressively.  

School-age kids often have a strong concept of fairness and equality, so might not understand why siblings of other ages are treated differently or feel like one child gets preferential treatment.

Teenagers, on the other hand, are developing a sense of individuality and independence, and may hate being forced to help with household tasks, care for younger siblings, or even spend time together. All of these differences can have an impact on how children fight with one another.

2. Need for Parental Attention

Children are always competing for the attention of their parents. The more busy the parents are, the greater the demand for their attention and the less time they have to devote to each child. When a new baby arrives, it can be difficult for the other children to accept losing their place as the center of attention. If they feel ignored, children will act out and misbehave in order to receive the attention they desire.

3. Problem with Sharing

Most households don't have unlimited resources. As a result, each sibling will have to share at least some of their belongings. Sharing one's favorite possessions at a younger age is quite difficult.

4. Individual Temperaments

How well your children get along is mostly determined by their individual temperaments, which include mood, disposition, and adaptability, as well as their distinct personalities. For example, if one child is calm and the other is easily agitated, they may frequently get into it. Similarly, a child who is overly attached and drawn to his or her parents for comfort and love; may be hated by siblings who notice this and desire the same kind of attention.

5. Fairness issues

Children are like little judges, constantly seeking fairness and equality; and fighting for what they believe to be their natural born rights.  

For example: A younger sibling might complain that their older sister gets to go to a concert and they have to stay home, while the older sister gets upset that they have to baby-sit their little sister instead of going out with their friends. Feelings of unfair treatment and sibling envy can develop into anger and frustration.  

6. Role models

The way parents settle conflicts and challenges sets a good model for their children. If you and your partner resolve arguments in a respectful, constructive, and non-aggressive manner, your children are more likely to employ the same strategies when they have conflicts with one another. When your kids witness you yell, slam doors, and argue loudly when you're upset, they're prone to pick up on those harmful habits.

When Fighting Starts, What Should You Do?

While it is very normal for brothers and sisters to quarrel or fight, sometimes  it is certainly not pleasant for anyone in the house. Also a family can only tolerate a certain amount of conflict. So what should you do when the fighting starts?

Whatever the cause, it is very important that parents do all possible to maintain a positive relationship between siblings and ensure that any confrontations do not harm their relationship. Here are some things parents may do to help their children deal with sibling rivalry:

  • If the fight starts, separate the children first till they are calm. It's sometimes preferable to just give them some space and not immediately revisit the conflict. Otherwise, the fight may re-escalate. Wait until the emotions have subsided before turning this into a learning experience.
  • Don't spend too much effort trying to figure out who is to blame. When it comes to fighting, it takes two to tango, and everyone engaged bears some of the blame.
  • Next, try to create a "win-win" situation where each child benefits. When they both want the same toy, assist or coach them on how they can play together.  

**When or when not to get involved:

Please keep in mind that, whenever feasible, you should avoid becoming involved. Step in only if there's a danger of physical harm. If you always intervene, you risk creating other problems. Instead of learning to solve problems on their own, the children may develop to expect your assistance and wait for you to arrive.

If you are concerned about the language used or name-calling, it is fine to "guide" children through their emotions by using suitable words. This is not the same as intervening or stepping in and separating the children.

Even so, encourage them to settle the situation on their own. If you do step in, try to resolve problems with your kids, not for them.

Remember that as children learn to deal with conflicts, they are also learning key life skills such as how to value another person's perspective, how to compromise and negotiate, and how to control aggressive impulses.

How to handle Disagreements in a Positive Way

At some point, all siblings are going to argue, taunt, and gossip about one another. Take steps to encourage healthy sibling relationships and also it’s very important to teach them how to resolve conflict on their own.

1. First, teach children how to deal with conflict in a constructive manner:

Children who are taught to resolve conflicts in a positive manner—for example, by listening to their siblings' perspectives and refraining from name-calling—will be in a far better state of mind to resolve conflicts and move past fighting.

Another benefit: teaching youngsters how to resolve conflicts with their brothers and sisters can help them grow into people who are better at resolving conflicts and managing relationships with others.

2. Listen to both sides:

Each story in a sibling fight will have two sides. Allow each child to feel as if they are being heard, without judgment or interruption. Often, children feel much better after venting to mom or dad about a problem, especially when they feel that they can state their position and it will be heard fairly.

3. Make a non-negotiable guideline to treat others with respect

This includes no yelling or hitting, as well as no other forms of physical violence. Encourage your children to listen to the other side of the story and to treat others with the same respect that they would like to be treated with.

4. Encourage children to be specific in their problem-solving statements

Tell your child to focus on what they are upset about, rather than on their sibling. For example, if your child is frustrated because their sibling constantly chooses which game they will play, they should express their dissatisfaction rather than saying something like, "You're not being fair!" By being specific about the problem (having an equal say in choosing the games) rather than focusing on a sibling’s behavior, the discussion can become more about the problem and solution, rather than their characterization of each other.  

5. Create a safe space for venting

Let your older child know that it’s okay to vent the angry feelings everyone feels sometimes. Just keep your cool (and perspective) as he does (he's not ready to self-edit yet). When he says, “I hate Ahnaf — I wish he would go away forever!” he’s just expressing his very normal angry feelings about a sibling who knocked over the block tower he just spent all morning toiling over. So avoid saying, "What a terrible thing to say — you don't mean that" (since, of course, he doesn't mean it literally).  

Rather, empathize: “You’re really angry at Ahnaf because he knocked down your tower. You put a lot of effort into it." Don't try to justify the baby's actions, because it won't make him feel heard — or get his tower back. The objective is for him to understand that his feelings are legitimate and reasonable so that he can release the rest of his anger and frustration.  

6. Ask the children to suggest some solutions

Encourage your children to come up with scenarios or solutions that are equitable to both parties. Before giving recommendations, encourage them to put themselves in the position of the other person or put themselves in the other person's shoes before making suggestions.  

7. Anticipate problems

Help your children come up with a solution if they can't end a disagreement on their own or if they fight about the same issues all the time. For example, if you have young children who have trouble sharing, encourage them to each play with their own toys or plan activities that don't require much cooperation — such as listening to music or playing hide and seek. If your children are fighting over gadgets, assist them in creating a weekly schedule. Explain the consequences of not following the schedule.

8. Model good problem-solving behavior

Children watch and learn from parents, and take cues on how to settle conflict from how you handle problems with your partner, friends, and family.  children will learn and adopt conflict-resolution skills if you are respectful and kind throughout a disagreement.

9. Have one to one conversation in private

If you need to intervene in a fight between siblings, don't make the conversation public. This can humiliate a child in front of his or her siblings, causing them to become even more hostile against one another. Make one-on-one conversations if you believe it is essential.

10. Have a family meeting

Gather the family and talk to give everybody a chance to say what they want to say. It’s also an opportunity to establish house rules that family members can agree to follow. Hang these rules in a public space, like the kitchen, to remind everyone of their commitment to being a happy, healthy family.  

Taking steps to avoid sibling rivalry in the first place

Reduced fighting among children is a long-term process that will take time. And some children are more prone to squabbles than others. Give children the structure and strategies they require to deal with challenges, but keep in mind that they are still children. Fighting with your siblings is all part of being a kid. There are simple things you can do every day to avoid conflict, such as:

1. Help your child to understand sibling bonding

Try to create so many visual impacts on sibling bonding. For example, when your children are doing something together, you can capture a lot of lovely moments. When they are laughing, fighting, cuddling, or playing together, try to catch all of those moments and keep those beautiful moments as a memento of a happy time. It helps them to see and appreciate the wonderful sibling bonding.

Also you can encourage your children to pick up things from their physical environment and make it a symbol of bonding. Helps one child, for example, do something special for another on their birthday or for a particular occasion.  

2. Avoid comparisons and try to create a cooperative environment

Avoid comparing your children, favoring one over the other or encouraging competition between them. Comparing your children's abilities can make them feel hurt and insecure. Avoid discussing the differences between children in front of them. When praising one of your children, describe his or her action or accomplishment — rather than comparing it to how his or her sibling does it.

Instead, create opportunities for cooperation and compromise. Don’t forget to set a good example, too. How parents interact with one another sets an example for how their children should interact.  

3. Teach them how to share

First, prepare to educate your child through generous examples. Model the kind heartedness you want to see in your children (one day): Offer them both a slice of your chocolate, a turn at your computer, and the opportunity to choose what they want for supper. Allow them to see you and your partner sharing.  

Also, on a regular basis attempt to set a good example. such as- allowing someone with only two items to go ahead of you in line at the supermarket, or giving up your bus seat to an old woman. Play games that encourage taking turns, such as throwing a ball, and offer group activities, such as painting on a large sheet of paper.

4. Individuality should be embraced

When children believe you value them as individuals, they are less likely to struggle. Start by avoiding labels and categorising, and spend time with each child individually to show them that they are special to you. If one child loves to run around outside, grab your sneakers and soak up the sunshine with them. If the other child likes to spend time reading their favorite book, snuggle up next to them. Then, make sure that everyone has the space and time they need to be alone.

5. Treat children fairly — not equally

Fairness is important to parents, but fair does not always imply equality. The consequences and rewards you provide your children should be adjusted to their specific requirements. It is not necessary, for example, to provide the same toy to two children. Instead, give them a variety of toys that are appropriate for their age and interests. That kind of fairness will go a long way.

6. Plan fun family time

Family dinners, playing board games, spending time at the park and doing activities are a great way for children to bond and share positive memories together. These moments give children less incentive to pick fights with each other and give them an opportunity to spend more time with you.  

7. Keep children Busy

Boredom is a common cause of child fights. Children are less prone to argue when they are actively engaged in independent activities. Furthermore, autonomous activities teach children how to deal with a problem (such as boredom) without seeking help from their parents. This is the lesson they must learn in order to stop fighting.  

8. Give each child separate attention

Spending time alone with each child might be difficult at times. However, one of the reasons siblings dislike one other is that they believe you aren't paying enough attention to them. Make one-on-one time with each of your children to show them how much you care about them. Carve out special days when you take your daughter shopping or your son to the movies — just the two of you. Even 10 to 15 minutes of your time per day can make a difference in making your child feel special.

9. Be an equal-opportunity Praiser

Sure, your child is developing at a rapid pace. But, while you should be proud of your older child's successes, don't take their skill sets for granted. This can promote sibling rivalry (as in "Mom likes you better!") If you remember your own sibling days, you also can relate to these feelings.  

When your children are playing nicely together or working as a team, always remember to compliment them both. Encourage them to continue their wonderful behavior.

10. Make sibling harmony a priority for everyone in the family

Explain to your children that your family works together as a unit. And like any good team, everyone—mom, dad, and the children work together to have a peaceful and loving home. Any fights among family members can hurt the whole team or the family.

Children learn to make peace through practicing conflict resolution skills such as identifying and expressing their own needs, listening to others, understanding many viewpoints, and problem-solving to agree on win-win solutions that benefit everyone.

Finally, we can conclude that with a little insight and patience, we can create a far more serene family and sibling harmony. Fighting and rivalry can be considerably reduced when a solid sibling bond is developed early on and children are taught how to manage conflict with their brother or sister. Once children learn how to work through their differences, this very important family bond can flourish and grow strong.

Exclusive Tips

That we Only share with Email Subscribers