Whether it be a simple sibling squabble over a toy, or more constant bickering and name-calling, sibling rivalry can be tiresome to deal with. To help manage it effectively, try to understand its causes, and from here you can employ strategies that may help you diffuse the conflict.

What causes sibling rivalry?

There are a wide range of factors that can cause sibling rivalry, including:

  • Position in the family – an older child may feel burdened with having to look after a younger sibling or a younger child may feel as if they’re in an older child’s shadow and have to play catch-up.
  • Age – interest in different games and activities will vary with age.
  • External stressors – events that are happening outside the immediate family unit can sometimes cause tension between siblings.
  • Mood, personality, time of day, tiredness, hunger...

How to manage conflicts

Here are some things you might want to consider in dealing with sibling squabbles but remember, there is no rule that fits all!

  • Identify the cause of fighting – if it’s a simple matter, such as one child taking another toy from the other, use the fight as a teaching opportunity. Explain the value of sharing and help them practise by setting a timer to swap toys, or introducing an equally beloved second toy.
  • Try to avoid making comparisons – each child is their own person. Always celebrate each child’s individuality.
  • Don’t dismiss your child’s resentment or anger – anger and resentment are part of being human. Encourage your children to express their emotions in a healthy way and equip them with the vocabulary and emotional resources to do so.
  • Aim for peaceful resolutions. Discourage violence and praise your children when they come to a peaceful resolution.
  • Whenever possible, let your children solve their differences between themselves. You may occasionally need to step in but leaving children to their own devices will encourage better communication and relationships between the two.
  • Allow your older child to help care for the younger – letting an older child occasionally help change a diaper or feed the younger can create a stronger relationship between the two siblings.
  • If you have the room to do so, try to allow each child, especially older ones, to have their own space – by doing this you keep personal items away from shared ones and help the children feel like respected individuals.

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