Kids & Company Blog

Sibling Rivalry: What you can do to prevent it.

Siblings fight.  They just do.  It is apart of how they learn to share space, things and, of course, you.  But sibling fighting is different than sibling rivalry.

Sibling fighting is what happens on the surface:  The grabbing, the hitting, the teasing, the refusing to share, etc.   Sibling rivalry is more under the surface.  It involves the longer-lasting feelings that siblings develop about each other, themselves and their comparative standing in the family.

Oftentimes, sibling rivalry grows out of how parents handle sibling fighting.  If we respond appropriately— are relatively fair and balanced in mediating our kids’ conflicts—they may never experience sibling rivalry.

However, if we routinely express favoritism, and constantly come to the defense of one child over another, or punish one child over another, we risk setting up a deep rift between our kids that can last a lifetime.

So how do we avoid doing this?

Of course, whenever possible, we should let our kids handle their disagreements on their own.  However, this is not always possible, especially when it comes to young children who haven’t yet learned the skills involved in conflict-resolution.

This means that before we can expect our kids to simply “work it out” on their own, we have to provide them with the necessary tools to do.  Here are a few basics:

1)  Teach your kids to use their words.  Remind the child who is having the issue to put whatever it is that is bothering her into words.  This is the only way that the other child involved in the conflict will understand what exactly about the situation is bothersome.

2)  Teach your kids to listen to other people’s words.  This involves, not only hearing what the other person has to say, but also, responding respectfully to it.

3)  Teach them to ask a grown up for help when/if the other person isn’t listening to their words, (i.e.-responding respectfully).  This will ensure that the conflict does not escalate or result in verbal or physical hurt.


For their part, parents should try to remain as impartial as possible when their kids approach them with a conflict.   For example, if the issue is over a toy that one child refuses to share with the other, tell both kids that the toy will be removed unless they can figure out a way to take turns.

In managing the conflict this way, parents ensure that both kids feel equally responsible for not only, causing the problem, but also, resolving it, and thus, make it much less likely for sibling rivalry to develop.


 M.E. Picher, PhD (d) provides personalized parent consultation, support and coaching to families dealing with challenges that are common to early childhood, such as sibling rivalry, picky eating, transitioning to school/daycare, sleep challenges, potty training, discipline challenges, and more.  Contact her at to set up a FREE 15 minute consultation.  Kids & Company families receive 10% off parent support sessions.




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