Tips on How to Discourage Sibling Rivalry

While many children fight over their toys, siblings will swing back and forth between feelings of admiration and dislike for one another. In many cases, this is natural, especially if there is an age gap of two or more years between your little ones. Often, we’d like to think that we can simply talk to them, encourage a ceasefire and tuck them into bed with their teddies and sheets that carry the loving, comfy scent of  a delicate fabric conditioner. However, there is more to discouraging sibling rivalry than a simple ceasefire.

It can often take some time to find the root of your superstars’ rivalry, continuously trying and testing your patience. If you’ve had enough of the kicking, screaming and crying, here are some ideas on how to dispirit heated sibling rivalry.

Where Does Sibling Rivalry Come From?

As we watch our little ones fight, we can often feel a little puzzled as to why it is that they’re bickering. According to Frances Walfish, Psy.D., a child and family psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, California, and author of The Self-Aware Parent, little ones might fight over their toys or a turn in the front seat, but they are ultimately fighting for love and attention.

If one sibling happens to feel jealous of the other, a mix of overwhelming feelings can fuel any existing rivalry. In accordance with Frances Walfish’s research, our little ones can also fight due to one or more of the following:

  • Evolving needs: As we watch our children grow, their needs begin to change. A sibling could prevent these needs from being fulfilled.
  • Individual temperaments: Each child has unique moods, adaptability and tolerance thresholds. Little siblings can often agitate and push these boundaries.
  • Role models: Little ones are extremely sensitive to what goes on around them. If they are exposed to bickering on the playground, in the classroom or at home, they are likely to mimic the action and provoke their sibling.
  • How Long Does It Last?

    Toddlers need to learn how to tolerate and accept each other’s characteristics and quirks to prevent the possibility of a strained relationship in later years. Severe sibling rivalry can last well after your tots reach puberty.

    How Do I Address It?

    There are times when our children’s arguments can quickly turn into physical fights. If you happen to run out of ways to cool off their rivalry, here are a few ideas:

    • Love, love and more love: Children will fight for the favour and attention of their parents. If you find that your little ones are simultaneously nagging you for attention, perhaps you can plan to spend equal amounts of quality time with each of your little stars.
      • A little lesson goes a long way: Weighted apologies can teach children the fundamental difference between right and wrong. If your little ones happen to treat each other badly, it might be a good idea to teach them how to add value and weight to an apology by talking to them about the issue and leaving them to think about their misdemeanour. This will lead to a more sincere “sorry” from your little one.
        • Play the grey clouds away: A fun and busy game or activity that is not focused on competition can help little ones focus on having fun and working together. A swim in the pool, a garden safari or an arts and crafts session can be a welcome distraction.
        • While you hold their small hands as they go through ups and downs, rest assured that your little one’s sibling rivalry will dissipate and that they will eventually lean on each other for support.