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Sibling Rivalry: What Can Parents Do?

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Sibling Rivalry: What Can Parents Do?

“Siblings are our partners and rivals, our first friends, and our first enemies”.

If you have siblings, you would already know what sibling rivalry is, right?  Arguing is like a routine for you guys, and will fight and quarrel even on the little things. Sibling rivalry can take a lot of forms; from minor quarrels to hitting, punching, and biting.

Though sibling rivalry is common and harmless, parents still need to intervene when things get too stressful or out of control. Especially when the whole house atmosphere is being disturbed because of the constant bickering and quarrel.

So, are you a parent and tired of your kids constantly fighting? Don’t worry. As always, we are here to the rescue! In this post, we are going to share everything you need to know about sibling rivalry, and what parents can or should do to handle it.

Keep Reading, you will want to thank us later!

What Causes Sibling Rivalry?

If you are living with someone, even as a roommate, fights are bound to happen. You can fight about disagreements, possessions, and small things like even a chocolate bar or a TV remote. The same is the case with your siblings. They live under the same roof, are bound to share the same things, and look for love from the same parents. However, sibling rivalry is very normal, and you can tackle it conveniently.

Here are a few common causes of sibling rivalry, varying from family to family:

1. Parental Favoritism

The main and primary cause of sibling rivalry is parental favoritism; perceived or real. When they see or feel a parent is being more considerate towards the other sibling, they will create a rivalry in their mind.

2. Different Personalities

Some siblings can have different personalities and temperaments, and this thing makes them argue with each other. However, it is a very innocent form of rivalry and never goes too far.

3. Guard Resources

Some siblings usually live with shared or limited resources, or some have things they love the most. So, sibling rivalry also occurs when one sibling wants to guard their resources and save them from the other. For example, a child is worried that the younger sibling might try to steal their favorite toy.

4. Jealousy

Jealousy is in every relationship; from siblings to spouses to parents. Siblings can develop jealousy of parents’ love, or even when a new sibling is born and getting all the attention. Siblings can also develop jealousy when the other sibling gets something new like a phone, laptop, etc. 

5. Lack of Conflict Resolution Skills

Another cause of sibling rivalry is the lack of conflict resolution skills in children. This lack of skills makes them unable to resolve challenges with their siblings. When this happens, children keep the things inside their hearts, and this thing builds up the rivalry more.

6. Competitiveness

Competitiveness is the most common cause that builds up the rivalry between siblings. This happens when one sibling thinks of the other sibling as a competitor instead of a partner or collaborator. The feeling of competitiveness especially emerges between twins, triplets, or more; since they are of the same age, and will probably have the same academic and professional life.

7. Lack of Intervention

Yes, sibling rivalry is natural, but that doesn’t mean you should not do anything about it. Some parents don’t intervene in between when siblings are fighting over something; this is where they go wrong. If not stopped on time, sibling rivalry can turn into a life-long rivalry and conflict.

Effects of Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry can badly affect both parents and kids. Yes, it is no fun, especially when it is happening too much. Here is a list of effects of sibling rivalry on kids and parents:

Chronic Stress for Parents

Sibling rivalry is a chronic frustration and stress for parents. They have to deal with continuous fights and bickering at home. Also, they have to worry about how their kids will behave outside the home. I mean obviously, parents would become embarrassed if their kids start fighting in front of others.

Lack of Meaningful Time

Sibling rivalry can stop the whole family from having meaningful and quality time together. Half of the time is wasted on fighting and arguments. When this happens, the family doesn’t have enough time to spend together.

Chronic Physical Violence

Sometimes the sibling rivalries take a physical form, where siblings start hitting and physically abusing each other; unintentionally. This physical violence can include punching, hitting, biting, or pushing. Intentional or unintentional, the physical violence of all kinds is wrong and should be stopped.

Mental Health Issues

This unintentional, chronic physical violence between siblings can make children suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress), anxiety, and depression. Also, PTSD can stay with them for a lifetime, while affecting their school and personal life.

Tips For Parents To Prevent Sibling Rivalry

Usually, parents make the mistake of thinking of sibling rivalry as ‘normal’. That is not the case every time. Sometimes sibling rivalry can have a very bad impact on the lives of both children and their parents. Here are a few tips for parents to prevent and stop unhealthy forms of sibling rivalry:

When to Intervene?

Here are a few situations where parents are needed to intervene instead of ignoring their children:

  1. Parents should take immediate action when they have a feeling they can’t leave their kids alone, even for a minute, because of the constant fights and verbal and physical violence.
  2. It is an alarming situation when siblings start destroying each other’s possessions like toys, books, clothes, etc.
  3. If one sibling starts believing that the other sibling is being more favored and loved by the parents, parents need to intervene and explain they love all their kids equally. This feeling of insecurity can lower the self-esteem of children.
  4. When you feel that the harmony and peace of your family are being destroyed because of the constant rivalry and conflicts, it is time to intervene.

Tips for Parents:

Here are a few tips for parents to prevent and/or stop sibling rivalry:

  1. It is recommended to mentally prepare your children before having a second or a third baby. Talking to them about it along the journey and giving them a sense of responsibility will reduce the chances of sibling rivalry after the baby is born.
  2. Try not to unintentionally avoid or ignore your children after having a new baby. A shift of attention is a sudden change, especially for children of younger age.
  3. If you feel like the sibling rivalry among your children is getting worse, you need to set up some ground rules and make sure your kids follow them. If you don’t, their temporary bad behavior is going to turn into a permanent one.
  4. Never compare your children and don’t show favoritism towards a specific one. Also, try not to make any comments on the appearances or genders. Doing this will strengthen the sibling rivalry even more.
  5. If you have twins, don’t force them to wear the same clothes, or behave the same way. They are two different individuals, and their personalities and natures are definitely going to be different.
  6. Give time to each of your children individually and equally. Spending time with them will give you the chance to learn about their personalities, abilities, and talents individually.

Home Rules To Stop Sibling Rivalry

Now, let’s go through some ground rules you need to fix in your home to stop and prevent sibling rivalry among your children. Here you go:

1. No Yelling

There should be a No Yelling rule in every house, for both parents and children. You all should speak in an in-door friendly and respectful manner. This rule will help stop all types of rivalries; not just sibling rivalry.

2. Permissions

Make a rule that every individual in the house will take permission before using or taking things from other people. This one rule can prevent a lot of conflicts, arguments, and bickering.

3. No Gossiping

This rule is extremely important, especially for younger children. Make a rule that no one will gossip or tattle about other people in the house. Tell your children you don’t want to hear anything other than important information about your siblings; no personal information.

4. Always Ask for Evidence

This rule is specifically for parents; always ask for proper and proven evidence before scolding or taking strict action against a child. Only react when you, yourself see or hear something. Not just because one of your children told you something about the other child. 

When Should You Consider Family Therapy?

A lot of parents these days are considering taking their children to family therapy, especially in cases of sibling rivalry. Here are a few signs you might consider family therapy:

  1. When sibling rivalry becomes constant stress and frustration for both parents and children.
  2. When you have tried multiple ways and strategies to end the rivalry, but none of them worked.
  3. You notice physical violence or bullying along with sibling rivalry.

However, make sure to look for the right therapist who has experience in dealing with such cases.

Final Words

Siblings often get into massive fights and arguments, and there are chances some people don’t get along well with their siblings. However, unhealthy and extreme sibling rivalry is wrong in every way.

As parents, it is your responsibility to identify the signs of sibling rivalry, intervene and try to stop it, and start taking measures beforehand to prevent it. Help your children, and try to build a positive and healthy home environment.

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Austin has 10+ years of experience in teaching. He has researched on thousands of students-related topics, issues, and concerns. You will often find him writing about the common concerns of students, their nutrition, and what is beneficial for their academics and health both.