sibling rivalry

6 Ways to Combat Sibling Rivalry

A friend of mine was driving one day with her eight-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter in the backseat. Suddenly, she heard the son ask the daughter, “Do you think I’m weird?” She replied, “No. I think you’re a coward and a moron.”

When children are close in age or they are naturally different, there is bound to be sibling jealousy and rivalry. Young children compete for things like toys and parents’ attention. As children mature, the things they compete for become bigger. Teenage children may fight over things like friends, sports achievements, or grades. This rivalry can cause tension in the sibling dynamic and throughout your entire household. Here are 6 ways to combat sibling rivalry.

1. Make sure your children know they’re different.

No two people are the same, so even siblings have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps one child excels in math and science while the other has an inclination towards English. Ask each child about their specific strengths and emphasize the way each is talented in a specific area.

2. Don’t compare your children.

Parents often use “Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother?” to attempt to motivate a child. However, this can actually be detrimental because it creates a negative connotation with a sibling. When parents make this negative comparison with another sibling, the child may develop bitterness towards their brother or sister.

3. Encourage your children to try separate activities.

Enrolling your children in the same extracurricular activities might sound like a good idea at first, but it definitely encourages rivalry. For example, if two sisters join the same gymnastics class, one child is bound to be more gifted than the other. When one sister sees the other excelling where she struggles, this can cause feelings of resentment. Try signing children up for different activities where they each can have their own opportunity to shine.

As a parent, your personality may clash with one child, but it is your job to treat all of your children equally.

4. Promote activities that foster teamwork.

Not all activities promote cooperation, but certain ones can bring your children together in working toward a common goal. For example, try a simple house cleaning task such as dusting and give them a reward when they finish. An easy task allows both children to work in harmony especially when they are working for a reward such as 10 extra minutes of TV time.

5. Don’t play favorites.

A child will notice when a parent favors a specific sibling. Maybe this sibling gets seconds of dessert or gets to pick the movie often. As a parent, your personality may clash with one child, but it is your job to treat all of your children equally. When a parent plays favorites with a child, the other one will feel slighted and unloved.

6. Let your children know that friends come and go, but siblings are forever.

In life, your child will change schools, develop new interests, and maybe even move to a different state. With these changes, your child’s friends will change, also. A child may have a friend for five or six years, but they will have a sibling forever. Emphasize to your children that being family is a bond that lasts a lifetime, so no matter how much they compete, at the end of the day, they will be siblings forever.