Sibling Rivalry

For families with more than one child, sibling rivalry is bound to become a source of frustration for parents from time to time. Sibling rivalry stems from a child’s need for security. Our children need to know where they “fit” in the family structure. They need to know that they are loved and valued, by us and their brothers and sisters.

Sibling rivalry is a normal, natural, an inevitable part of growing up. The good news is that rivalry is important to a child’s development. When managed effectively, rivalry can teach children problem-solving and cooperation skills.

What parents can do:

  • Don’t expect your children to get along all the time. They won’t.
  • Don’t place undue blame on one child over another. Often we have no way to know who did what to whom along the way. Don’t be drawn into the role of judge and jury.
  • Turn the tables on your children to solve the problem. Ask each child to share one way they might solve the problem or make the situation better. After each child has shared their idea, ask them to come up with one more idea. Typically one child will agree to the other child’s idea.
  • We can never appear amused or flattered by your children’s competition for attention.
  • Keep household rules consistent for all children and develop additional age-appropriate expectations.
  • Don’t play favorites.
  • Most important, as adults in the household we need to be on the same page with the above tips.

~ Darcia Behrens, LCSW, Supervisor/Clinician, Medical Social Work Program, Family Services Department, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

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