What Causes Sibling Rivalry And How To Deal With It


The upside of having more than one child is that your children would grow up to be really close together. Having two or more kids with a very small age gap of either one or two years, can give them a chance to develop important skills like co-operation, sharing and being able to see the other person’s point of view. But more often than not, parents find themselves complaining of sibling rivalry between their children. What really constitutes sibling rivalry? Not just cat fights and the occasional spats that your kids may have, but sibling rivalry is actually built-up jealousy and competition of sorts between siblings, to out-do one another. One minute your children are getting along and the next minute they’re at each other’s throats. If you are trying to manage your kids and wish to maintain some peace in the house, read on for some useful tips!

Sibling rivalry can start in early childhood and go on till teenage and in some cases even adulthood

Sibling rivalry can start in early childhood and go on till teenage and in some cases even adulthood

Sibling rivalry starts early; at times it can start with the birth of your second child. It can continue throughout childhood and if not managed well, it can even make a mess in the relationships that adult siblings share. At such times, it can be very frustrating and stressful to parents, hence it is important to detect it in early stages and nip it in the bud.

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What causes sibling rivalry:

Any child in the developmental stage (between the ages of 2-10) would love to prove himself/herself to their parents in order to gain some attention, affection and response from you. At such a juncture, the arrival of a new baby feels like a threat to them. So try to talk to your child and prepare them for having company if you plan to have a second child.

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As they grow, children do not understand that there are positive ways to gain praise and attention from parents; for e.g. playing together. So, they resort to the negative ways and pick fights. Elder siblings may provoke reactions from the younger ones and this may turn into a cranky fight that requires parental intervention.

Stress in the family can be one of the reasons for sibling rivalry

Stress in the family can be one of the reasons for sibling rivalry

Family dynamics too play a vital role in determining the behaviour of the children in the family. If elders argue in front of the kids, children are quick to learn. At times, a child may remind you of a parent of relative that is particularly difficult and you may subconsciously treat the child inappropriately. This can in turn have a lasting impact on your child’s emotional state.

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Another cause for sibling rivalry could be ongoing stress in the family. Parents, under stress, may not give enough attention to the children who may then pick fights to gain attention. At such time, dealing with the situation with tenderness is crucial. If your newborn is getting more attention, your toddler may become cranky and if not handled well, he/she may go into childhood depression.


Managing sibling rivalry:

ü  Don’t play favourites. Give all your children, equal love and affection and teach them to love each other too.

ü  Comparing children may induce rivalry among children who were initially on good terms. So avoid comparisons between your kids.

ü  Each child is special and has different talents and strengths, realize this and appreciate them for being who they are.

ü  Teach your children positive ways to deal with each other and encourage them to behave well with each other.

ü  Instil values of love in them; you may choose spirituality to explain them the reward of good behaviour and the punishment of ill behaviour.

ü  Give equal amount of time to your children, separately and together as well. Make them spend more time with each other under your supervision by engaging them in group activity.

Be there for your children. However stressed out you may be, know that your children can be your way out from stress; so never avoid them when they need you. Tell them they are special. And yes… don’t shout at very young children.

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