Dealing with sibling rivalry
If you have more than one child, chances are you’re experiencing the stress and frustration of
sibling rivalry, like many of our parents. Despite your best attempts at harmony, brothers and
sisters (or brothers and brothers, or sisters and sisters) will fight over toys, tattle on one another,
argue, tease, criticize, physically harm one another, and vie for your preferential attention.
As annoying and upsetting as sibling rivalry can be, it is quite normal. A certain amount of
jealousy and friction between siblings is all part of growing up, although it can be worse in some
families than others.
We can help with the sibling situation
At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we’ve dealt with lots of siblings over the years, and we’d like to help
you with yours. We urge you to come in and talk with us about any aspect of sibling rivalry or your children’s
behavior that is concerning you. We’re ready to help with information, advice and guidance. Together,
we’ll try to make this often stressful time easier and more harmonious for everyone.
Why does rivalry between children occur?
In part, it is a competition for your attention and love. You as their parent are crucial in
their lives, and they would rather not share you with anyone, particularly a brother or sister.
Other contributing factors are: the individual personalities of your children, their mutual or
differing interests, their ages, the amount of time they spend with one another and with you, and
any perceived favoritism (however unintentional) you or your spouse may show toward one
Guidelines for managing sibling rivalry
- Above all, try to be fair. This applies to everything from settling arguments to which TV show to watch.
- Avoid making comparisons between your children.
- Encourage them to work out their own differences — calmly, respectfully, and without anger or violence.
- Avoid taking sides on sibling conflicts. Be impartial and do not show a preference for one child over the other.
- Teach your children healthy ways to disagree and resolve conflicts.
- Discourage tattling. Communicate that “telling” on each other will not win your affection or avoid discipline.
- When it is necessary to punish or reprimand, do it with the misbehaving child in a private place, not in front of the sibling.
- Conduct regular family meetings in which you encourage all family members to express their thoughts and feelings, as well as give positive recognition and rewards for good behavior and mutual collaboration.