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Sibling Rivalry

Dear Debi,
I have two sons who are 3 & 5. They seem to argue and fight more and more as they get older. What can I do to restore the peace?
Carolina Tapia
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Make sure to give individual attention to each of your children
  • Encourage, but donít pressure your children to play together
  • Monitor arguments but avoid taking sides
  • Reward your children when they do get along
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early education instructor
Sibling rivalry is very common and completely natural. Children are striving to find their place in the family and testing the hierarchy. All parents want their children to get along all the time, but thatís simply not typical. Any time there is more than one child in a family there is going to be some rivalry.

Sibling rivalry usually occurs when children are discovering who they are and are competing to find their own niche (talents, activities, and interests). Sibling rivalry happens when children feel like they are receiving unequal amounts of attention, discipline and/or responsiveness from their parents.

There are many things parents can do to try to lessen sibling rivalry. Parents should try to do whatever they can to make each child feel loved and special. Develop a close relationship with each child.

Parents should really try to let the kids work disputes out themselves. Donít take sides. Donít intervene unless the disputes escalate to involve physical or verbal abuse. If it escalates to that level, then parents need to step in.

Parents should spend time with each child individually doing an activity that each child likes, in order to make each child feel secure of their place within the family.

Parents should remember to treat each of your children as individuals. Parents, however, shouldnít bring treats into the house for one child, such as an ice cream cone, without including the other children.

Make each child feel part of a team, part of the family. Donít force your kids to play together, or force them to even spend time together. Let them take the lead with who they want to play with. Let it be their choice.

Finally, praise your kids when they are getting along and interacting well. This attention may encourage them to play together while having fewer disputes.
Child Care Provider Comments
Nikki Maxwell
Nikki Maxwell
Breastfeeding her third child
When my children fight with one another, it can often revolve around my time and attention. I feel like my lap always has a child in it. But sometimes arguments involve toys and ownership of objects. Sometimes itís around issues of identity. For example, my girls will argue about likes and dislikes and how they fit in the family. They also fight over chores and rules. The older children have different rules and expectations than the younger children which creates conflict when someone thinks that is unfair.
Marianella Hickery
Marianella Hickery
Child care provider for 20 years
When I am taking care of the kids, one of the major concerns is that the younger kids always want to play with what the older kids are playing with or with the same friends. Usually the older kids arenít interested in having their sibling next to them. What I try to do is to redirect the activities before the conflict starts.
Fred Hodge
Fred Hodge
Grandfather of five
We know the personalities of the grandkids so to prevent sibling rivalry from happeningówe try to stay one step in front of the children. We listen to what they are saying, so we can redirect their focus. Sometimes, when I come in, I will see that someone is agitated. I ask them to show me something they are working on. I will turn the attention away from the struggle and toward the accomplishments. ďShow me your room. Show me what you are doing in your room.Ē

Sibling Posters Featured Activity:
Sibling Posters
Sibling Rivalry Featured Video:
Sibling Rivalry
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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