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Sibling Rivalry
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Sibling Rivalry, As Old as Cain and Abel

You don’t have to look any further than the Biblical story of Cain and Abel to know that sibling rivalry is as old as time itself. Jealousy, competition, and fighting between siblings are normal, continue throughout childhood, and are a major stressor for parents. But, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it can’t be tempered.

The Fundamentals of Sibling Rivalry

The first rule to reducing sibling rivalry is not to play favorites. Don't compare your children to one another. Set up responsibilities that require the children to work together. Remember that fairness isn't the same as equality. To minimize rivalry, help your children understand that with different ages come different responsibilities and privileges. When parents’ expectations are clear for children, it can often go far towards dealing with sibling rivalry. Pay attention to patterns of conflict. What situations or time of day seem to spur incidents between siblings, and what changes might be initiated to break those patterns? Plan fun activities for the family. Focusing on the positive can really be a help for sibling rivalry. The more good experiences children have with one another, the better they will relate.

Being There for Children

Quality time with each child is important, even if just for 10 minutes a day. Talk to each child about what's going on with his/her sibling(s) and really listen to what each child has to say. Show interest in each child's activities and praise them for their individual accomplishments

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry - Family Meetings

With school age children, having family meetings can help reduce sibling rivalryand it can be a good forum to set ground rules for conflict resolution. Rules for the family meeting should include:

  • No yelling or name calling.
  • Everyone gets a turn to speak, allowing one person at a time to talk with no interruptions.
  • No one has to talk, but everyone has to listen: siblings and parents. Family meetings should also highlight positive family moments. Be sure to plan at least one fun thing to do together as a family.

Ground Rules for Interaction Between Siblings

Some basic parenting tips for conflict resolution include:

  • No hitting, name calling or tattling.
  • An item being fought over is put away until the conflict is resolved.
  • A child demanding to be heard first will be heard last.
  • Making fun of a sibling’s punishment will be punished.

If children are regularly violent with each other with one child consistently being the victim, you might have sibling abuse on your hands rather than just dealing with sibling rivalry. In this case, parents should promptly seek professional help and guidance. Get more help for sibling rivalry here! Assistance is available for this and other children’s behavior problems, through online counseling.