7 Strategies for Resolving Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry
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Arguments, competition, and jealousy between siblings disrupts peace in homes across the world. Problems often start soon after a second baby is brought into the home. And in some families, sibling rivalry continues straight through adulthood.

If you’re struggling to deal with the stress of squabbling children, a proactive approach can help put an end to sibling rivalry before it gets out of hand. Here are seven strategies to help resolve sibling rivalry:

1. Establish Ground Rules

Let your kids know that they don’t have to agree on everything and it’s okay to be angry with one another but make it clear that certain behavior is unacceptable. Don’t allow name calling, physical aggression, or bullying of any kind.

Establish clear rules and discuss the consequences for breaking the rules. For example, tell them if they fight over a toy, you'll take it away. Or, explain that anyone who hits will be placed in time-out. Make it clear that any violation in the rules will result in an immediate consequence regardless of the circumstances.

2. Intervene When Fights Become Harmful

Sibling rivalry can turn into sibling abuse if it’s not monitored carefully. Sibling abuse results when one sibling consistently becomes the victim of the other. Escalating aggression, combined with ineffective parenting interventions, can lead to serious safety issues. Teasing, threatening and terrorizing can also constitute emotional abuse between siblings.

Abuse between siblings can have serious consequences. It’s essential to intervene if one child is being hurt emotionally or physically. If you’re struggling to manage sibling rivalry, seek professional help. A mental health professional can assist with the challenges of sibling aggression.

3. Provide a Warning

Whether the kids are arguing over who gets to go first when playing a game, or they can’t decide which show to watch on TV, offer one warning.

Say something like, “I’ll give you one more minute to decide. If you can’t come up with a solution, I’ll put the game away.”

Stay in close range and monitor the situation. Make sure that one child doesn’t always get taken advantage of or that one sibling isn’t bullying the other. If they peacefully reach a solution, praise their willingness to work together.

4. Follow Through with Consequences

If they can’t reach a peaceful resolution, follow through with the consequence. Perhaps that means no one gets to watch TV or no one is allowed to play with a certain toy today. Make it clear that throwing a temper tantrum, blaming one another, or begging won’t be effective.

5. Teach Peaceful Means of Compromise

Kids often need a lot of coaching when it comes to compromising. Teach your children how to negotiate with one another by asking for what they while also offering to give a sibling what he wants.

Provide specific ideas such as, “How about you pick the first TV show and he gets to pick the second show.” Create a schedule to address tasks that they commonly argue over, such as who gets to use the computer first or who has to take a bath first.


6. Validate Each Child’s Feelings

Avoid taking sides during disagreements. Instead, validate each child’s feelings. Acknowledge that it’s frustrating to have to share and that it is hard to get along sometimes. Sometimes, validating each child's feelings can extinguish conflict fast.

7. Hold Family Meetings to Problem-Solve

Meet regularly as a family to problem-solve sibling rivalry issues. Ask for input about how to deal with specific problems and develop strategies together. For example, talk about how to put an end to squabbles before school or how to end sibling rivalry over a specific game. Getting the kids involved in the solution can help motivate them to address the problem.

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