How to deal with sibling rivalry?

Shutterstock.com/ Collin Quinn Lomax

Sibling rivalries date back to biblical times. Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve and they were always competing for God’s affection. Yet in that length of time, we haven’t really solved the issue of sibling rivalry and it can drive huge divides between brothers and sisters. Here we provide some tips to help the sibling rivalries in your family.

The first step is to understand why they exist. It all begins when a new brother or sister arrives (let’s assume for now you don’t have twins). A child goes from being the only important thing in a mother and father’s life to now having to share all that love and affection. That is a huge challenge for anyone, especially a child. 

This means that sibling rivalries are perfectly natural and really nothing to worry about, as long as they take place within reason. It is fine for your children to compete over certain things and try and one-up the other sibling at certain times but you should be confident that they really love and care about each other and you should be sure that they never feel they are competing over your love.

The reality is that when you have more children your love is not divided but your time can be. This is something you need to make your children aware of in your words and your actions. The most important step is to never compare your children or force them to compete with one another. As an example, if both your kids are struggling to finish their dinner, never say “whoever finishes first gets…”. Forcing them to compete like that starts to position them as enemies and this is not what you want. Treat them as individuals of course but never on opposite teams where the prize appears to be your affection.

Of course, it is still fun to compete. We are not saying you can’t play monopoly with your kids, simply saying that you must ensure that your love is never the prize. Never choose one child over another, or make it feel like that is what is happening. If you are going somewhere on a trip and can only take one child, that is perfectly fine, just make sure it is clear why you chose one child over the other. This can actually be taken as a learning opportunity for your children. They can understand that people have different needs at different times and they need to be treated differently If your oldest child had a bad day at school, explain to your youngest that you need to take her for ice cream. Get your children on board in the decision process so they feel part of the process, even if they don’t get to enjoy the ice cream on this occasion.

Children will often see siblings with something and want it. This is totally normal but your reaction will be what really matters. Read into their reaction as an indication of desire and fulfill that desire. If one child is playing with a toy and another child asks for it. Ask them are they bored and give them a different toy instead. If they are still not happy they are probably just looking for attention, so give them that. Understand the meaning behind your child’s reactions and you will have a much happier household.

While sibling rivalries are totally normal it is important to create an environment where they care about each other too. As they grow up their relationship will be increasingly important and you need to do your part while they are young to make sure they know the importance of being there for each other.