Patients and Families

Helping Parents Respond to Sibling Rivalry

It’s normal for brothers and sisters to fight and for children to fight with other kids. Parents can help their children respond better when they are having trouble getting along with others.

Sibling Rivalry Isn't All Bad!
  • Conflict teaches children to be tough and to bounce back.
  • Conflict teaches children how to stand up for themselves, defend themselves and work things out with others.
  • Competing with others can lead children to try harder and do better.

Note: When parents let their children work out their own sibling problems (without parents getting involved) siblings tend to develop a closer relationship as adults.

On the other hand, if not handled well, sibling rivalry can hurt both parents and children. Constant fighting can cause physical and emotional harm.

Why Siblings Fight

It helps to understand why siblings fight. The main reason for sibling rivalry seems to be the fact that you have decided to share your love with more than one child. Understanding why children fight can give parents new ways to prevent or stop the fighting.

  • Children fight for their parents' attention. Negative attention is better than no attention at all.
  • Children fight because they are jealous.
  • Children fight to get revenge.
  • Children may fight when they are bored or lonely.
  • Children want to feel powerful.
  • Children may fight when they are frustrated. When a child tries to share and his sibling doesn’t respond the way he wants him to, there may be conflict.
What Parents Can Do

Parents can do a lot to control their own responses to sibling rivalry. Let’s see how:

  • Show understanding.
  • Listen to your child.
  • Help children channel their feelings.
  • Stop the hurting behavior and set clear limits.
  • Focus on what your child needs.
  • Never compare children.
  • Give uniquely, not equally.
  • Teach and model problem-solving.
  • Do not respond to children's fights unless there is physical harm. Let children solve their own problems.
Last Update
September 11, 2008
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Last Update
September 11, 2008
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