Dealing with sibling rivalry (1)

How to deal with sibling rivalry


If you have more than one child, you may have encountered sibling rivalry. It’s one more thing to challenge Mums, but there are ways to make it better. This article is going to give advice on how to deal with sibling rivalry.

What is sibling rivalry?

Sibling rivalry is competition between siblings, which leads to conflict and animosity. It doesn’t just affect blood related siblings, and can occur between step siblings, and adopted or fostered siblings. Another thing to note, is sibling rivalry isn’t just limited to children, it can carry on into adulthood.

Disagreements are a normal part of life. This helps shape your children’s future interactions. Sometimes this can stem from having to share items or time with you. Other times it can be down to emotions, hunger, boredom or tiredness. If this rivalry leads to persistent arguing or fighting, it can be difficult as a mother. Remember this isn’t down to your parenting, it happens very often. We have some tips to help you minimise these occasions and reduce the rivalry between your children.

Sibling rivalry in children

Dealing with sibling rivalry in teenagers

How to deal with sibling rivalry in adults


sibling rivalry

How to deal with sibling rivalry in children

Motherhood with little ones can be fraught. We are often in pressured situations, and sometimes small things can blow out or proportion. Here are some top tips for dealing with sibling rivalry in children.

Encourage positive sibling situations

  • Lead by Example: Children learn from their parents, so it’s crucial for you to model positive behaviours and conflict resolution. Show them how to express emotions and resolve disputes peacefully.
  • Encourage Bonding: Promote sibling bonding by creating opportunities for them to spend quality time together. Family outings, game nights, or shared hobbies can help build stronger connections.
  • Individual Time: While encouraging sibling bonding is important, try to spend quality one-on-one time with each child. This can help alleviate feelings of jealousy and reduce rivalry for your attention. This can be one of the hardest things to do, especially as a single parent. Try to get friends or family to help if you can, or make the most of children being at clubs or parties and make the most of the time with your other child(ren).

Aim for effective communication

  • Listen Actively: When your children come to you with their concerns or disagreements, make sure to listen actively. Allow each child to express their feelings and thoughts without interruption.
  • Teach Conflict Resolution: Teach your children to resolve conflicts amicably. Encourage them to use “I” statements, such as “I feel upset when you take my toys without asking.”
  • Positive Reinforcement: Praise and reward your children for working together and showing kindness to each other. This can reinforce positive behaviour and reduce rivalry.
  • Stay calm: Keep your composure which will help keep open communication flowing. This also helps set a positive example.

Set some ground rules

  • Family rules: It can be great to sit together and agree on some family rules. Children are more likely to adhere to rules they had a place in creating.
  • Fairness Matters: Ensure you treat your children fairly, but recognise each child has unique needs and talents. Try to stay neutral when dealing with situations.
  • Shared Responsibilities: Assign age-appropriate chores and responsibilities to each child. This teaches them about fairness and cooperation.

Encourage individuality

  • Support Their Passions: Celebrate each child’s unique interests and talents. When they have their own identities and hobbies, there’s less need for rivalry.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Whether it’s academic success, sports accomplishments, or personal milestones, celebrate and acknowledge each child’s achievements.
teenage sibling rivalry

How to deal with sibling rivalry in teenagers

Sibling rivalry in teenagers presents different issues. Being a teenager, emotions can run high. It can be a difficult time for them dealing with emotions and trying to find their own identity. Although the rivalry may stem over similar things as when they are smaller, such as belongings, time and emotions. Here are some tips for dealing with sibling rivalry with your teenage children.

Aim for open communication

  • Foster an Open Dialogue: Create a safe space for your teenagers to express their feelings and concerns. Encourage them to communicate openly with each other and with you about their conflicts.
  • Active Listening: When your teenagers come to you with sibling issues, practice active listening. Let them express their feelings without judgment and validate their emotions.
  • Model Respectful Behaviour: Demonstrate respectful and cooperative behaviour in your interactions with your children and with others. Teenagers often emulate the behaviour they observe.

Set boundaries and expectations

  • Establish Clear House Rules: Clearly define the household rules and expectations, such as curfews, responsibilities, and acceptable behavior. Make sure both teenagers understand these rules to reduce potential sources of conflict.
  • Fair Consequences: Apply consequences for rule violations consistently. This demonstrates fairness and reinforces the idea that everyone is held to the same standards.

Respect individuality

  • Celebrate Differences: Encourage your teenagers to embrace their individuality. Celebrate their unique interests, talents, and achievements to help reduce competition.
  • Teach Respect: Emphasize the importance of respecting each other’s boundaries and personal space. Reinforce the idea that respect is the foundation of a healthy sibling relationship.
  • Privacy Boundaries: Recognise that teenagers need privacy. Respect their boundaries and ensure that they have personal space, both physically and online.

Encourage independent problem solving

  • Conflict Resolution Skills: Teach your teenagers effective conflict resolution techniques, such as using “I” statements to express feelings and seeking compromise in disagreements.
  • Problem-Solving Together: Encourage your teenagers to work together to find solutions to their conflicts. This empowers them to take responsibility for resolving their issues.

Have family bonding time

  • Family Time: Plan regular family activities and outings that involve both teenagers. These shared experiences can help foster positive sibling relationships.
  • Support Their Interests: Find common interests or hobbies that both teenagers can engage in together, whether it’s a sport, a hobby, or a shared project.
adult disagreement

How to deal with sibling rivalry in adults

Sibling rivalry can persist into adulthood, but as your children grow, their relationships may change. Dealing with sibling rivalry among adult children can be complex, as they are now responsible for their own lives and decisions. By encouraging open communication, fostering mutual respect, and promoting opportunities for bonding, you can help them navigate their relationships and build stronger, more harmonious connections as they move forward in adulthood.

Remember that adult siblings can have different dynamics, and it’s essential to be flexible and patient as they develop their own relationships. Encourage them to reach out and support each other, no matter where life takes them.

Communication and respect

  • Initiate Family Discussions: Promote family meetings or discussions where adult siblings can share their feelings and concerns. Open lines of communication can help address underlying issues.
  • Recognise Their Autonomy: Understand that adult children are independent individuals with their own lives and choices. Avoid interfering in their personal decisions unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Emphasize Respect: Reinforce the importance of mutual respect between adult siblings. Encourage them to acknowledge each other’s feelings and perspectives.

Be fair

  • Fair Treatment: Ensure that you treat all your adult children fairly. Avoid showing favoritism or making comparisons, which can fuel rivalry.
  • Fair Distribution: If you’re distributing family resources, assets, or responsibilities, do so fairly, taking into account each child’s needs and contributions.
  • Stay Neutral: If conflicts arise between adult siblings, avoid taking sides. Instead, encourage them to work through their disagreements themselves. Only intervene when necessary or requested.

Get involved

  • Magic doesn’t work: Don’t expect things to magically resolve. All relationships take time and nurturing. You are likely to need to intervene at times.
  • Mediation: If conflicts arise, be willing to act as a mediator to facilitate conversations and ensure each sibling has a chance to express their perspective.
  • Create Opportunities: Organise family gatherings, events, or traditions that encourage adult siblings to spend time together. These shared experiences can help foster positive relationships, you also get to spend time with them too!

To conclude

In conclusion, sibling rivalry is a part of growing up, but with the right guidance, mums can help their children build strong, lifelong bonds. Remember to lead by example, promote positive communication, and encourage individual growth. By doing so, you can create a family environment where sibling rivalry becomes a stepping stone for personal development and stronger relationships. Let us know your experiences of sibling rivalry in the comments below.

Children sibling rivalry

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on how to deal with sibling rivalry

How can I tell the difference between healthy sibling rivalry and harmful conflict?

Healthy sibling rivalry involves normal competition and occasional disagreements, but it doesn’t escalate into hurtful or damaging behaviour. It’s important to monitor your children’s interactions and step in when conflicts become aggressive or emotionally harmful. Encourage open communication so your children feel comfortable discussing their concerns with you. More advice can be found here.

My children’s age gap is quite significant; will they still have sibling rivalry?

Sibling rivalry can occur regardless of age gaps. While age differences may lead to different types of conflicts, it’s essential to address the issues as they arise. Encourage your children to find common ground and respect each other’s unique needs and interests. Positive parenting strategies can help mitigate rivalry, even with significant age differences. Some more tips can be found here.

Can sibling rivalry have a lasting impact on my children’s relationships as adults?

Sibling rivalry can influence adult sibling relationships, but it doesn’t have to define them. The way you guide your children through their rivalries as they grow can impact their adult interactions. By fostering positive communication, teaching conflict resolution, and celebrating their individual identities, you can help them build stronger and more harmonious relationships as adults. You can get some further advice here. You can also join our Mum vibes village on Facebook for advice and support from fellow Mums.

Want to share your story and experiences? Send an email to In the mean time, check out our real Mums real stories.

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