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Sibling Rivalry

Brothers and sisters often waver between best friends and worst enemies. It's normal and natural for siblings to fight, and there are many reasons why they do so. Sibling rivalry can arise as a result of temperament, need, jealousy, and more. What follows is a deeper explanation of sibling rivalry and how you can manage conflicts between siblings.

Preschoolers and Kindergartners may be more prone to sibling rivalry than kids of other ages. This is because they are old enough to react to frustration, but still young enough so that they don't understand how to take control of their emotions. Preschoolers and Kindergartners are still learning to assert their will which often leads to conflicts. Siblings may also fight because they have very different temperaments. Kids that receive more attention from parents because they are clingy or because they have an illness (either long-term or temporary) may incite jealousy in their siblings.

Unfortunately, siblings often fight because parent set an example of conflict. Parents who solve problems with disagreements and/or arguments may inadvertently teach their kids that solving problems involves conflict rather than compromise. Sibling rivalry may be minor or it can take over and change the entire tone of the household. Unless your kids are in danger of harming themselves or one another, try not to get involved.

If you find parental intervention is necessary, try these steps:

  • Separate the combatants. It's impossible for anyone, especially young children, to work things out in the heat of the moment.
  • Don't place blame. After your kids calm down, you may need to mediate. Don't focus on who was right and who was wrong; it takes two to argue. Focus instead on finding a solution to the problem.
  • Young children need to learn compromise if they get something in return. It's hard to explain to a four-year-old that his brother can play with a toy today, but he has to wait until tomorrow. Young kids don't respond all that well to delayed gratification. Help your kids find a solution that provides them both with a win.

Teaching siblings good conflict resolution skills helps them manage conflicts with other kids as well. Try initiating discussions with to your children about how to handle conflict. And, don't forget to praise them for a job well done when they manage to work things out on their own.