Reducing Sibling Rivalry

What Encourages Rivalry?

As a parent, you naturally see the differences in your children. One is a whiz at math while the other is a budding athlete. It’s difficult not to compare the two, but comparison is the root of rivalry. Comparing your children, especially in front of them, can cause self-esteem to drop and negative feelings to escalate. Comparing your children can fuel competition between them, causing more rivalry (Katz).    

Recognizing each child’s individuality assures your child that he or she is important to you. As long as children feel they are seen as unique individuals, they are willing to tolerate almost anything (LeShan). Acknowledging your child’s independence prevents selfish behavior, which in turn prevents fighting (Henderson).

Spending special time with each child helps maintain peace. This shows your children that you love them and want to be with them, which lessens the need to compete for your attention. While you are with your child, don’t talk about his brother or buy clothes for the baby (Katz). The time you spend doesn’t have to be elaborate or cost a lot of money. You can color with your preschooler, play a board game with your elementary-aged child, or make cookies together with either one.

Your kids will employ whatever behavior gets your attention. When your children are playing pleasantly together, compliment them (Katz). In addition, if you start complimenting your children, you may be surprised to find one of your children praising the other for playing nicely. Stress the positive aspects of the relationship between your children. An older brother may not know how important it is that he helps his little sister tie her shoes. Letting your children know how much they are valued by their siblings can change the mood between 

Resist interfering

When your children are arguing, your automatic response as a parent is to jump in and handle the situation. Nevertheless, stepping back and letting your children work out their own solutions to the problem prepares them for daily adult life (Henderson). It is best to intercede only if your children are unequally matched in age, strength, or vulnerability. It requires a lot of patience to listen to your children compromise, but they will be better off because of the experience. 

Set an example

When you get together with your own siblings, your children notice the way you treat them. Children who observe their parents interacting pleasantly with their own brothers and sisters will have improved interactions with their siblings. Your children will follow your example.   


Henderson, K. “Twelve Ways To Tame Sibling Rivalry.”

Katz, D. M. “Can Your Children Be Friends?”

LeShan, E. When Your Child Drives You Crazy