Managing Sibling Rivalry

If you have more than one child, there will be times when your children believe that you’re favoring one child over another. Use the suggestions below to manage sibling rivalry and to foster a positive sibling relationship between or among your children.

Acknowledge your own preferences for one of your children over another and work to avoid favoring that child. If you do in fact prefer one child to another, work with yourself on this unfair bias you have and never communicate “honestly” with your children that you do prefer to spend time with one of your little ones instead of the others.

Always listen to your children’s feelings about you showing preference to one child over another without assuming the child is mistaken in his or her feelings. At the very least, by listening to your children’s complaints about each other, you have the opportunity to see what your behavior is communicating to your children.

Don’t let children work things out themselves, especially if they become physical. Even in the case of twins or triplets, each child is an individual and children are not required to fend for themselves when they feel they’re being attacked. Your parental responsibility requires you to protect your children from abuse and violence even from one another.

Teach your children to appreciate one another by engaging in family activities. Try to take more and more of a backseat during these interactions so that the children learn to interact with one another.

If you observe bullying by an older sibling or manipulation through complaining or crying by a younger sibling, spend time trying to address specific behaviors as they arise instead of sitting the child down and calling him or her a bully or a baby.

Don’t let one child become your official helper while the other child or children do not help, such as letting an older child become your babysitter. Younger children can also contribute to the family through chores and doing acts of kindness for older siblings.

Don’t take sides in sibling arguments beyond drawing boundaries about violence and abusive acts such as the silent treatment. Encourage siblings to communicate in your presence about what’s bothering them and do not add your own commentary until you’ve thought about the problem.

Never complain about one sibling to another sibling because this will likely set a pattern of defining one child as the “bad” child.

Respect your children as individuals by making time and energy for each of their interests and strengths. Even if you like watching your daughter’s ballet class better than watching your son’s baseball game, make certain that both you and the other parent observe both. Treating your children as individuals will help them become confident in their self-worth which will reduce sibling rivalry.

Sibling rivalry is a common feature of growing up in a family with more than one child but can be effectively managed by parenting so that your children grow up able to appreciate one another as individuals. Use the suggestions above to manage sibling rivalry between or among your children.

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