Sibling rivalry! Oh what to do?

Anyone that has more than one child knows there is always some level of fighting that goes on between siblings. Is it too much to ask for no fighting? Ever? In my rose-coloured world it’s not… but then reality sets in. I guess I have to accept that some fighting is a normal part of growing… of discovering conflict resolution skills.

This quote by Pamela Dugdale, as quoted in  “Siblings Without Rivalry: how to help your children live together so you can live too,” sums it up nicely for me:

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.”

Sibling RivalryHowever, it is only recently and upon reflection that I can see the positive in my kids arguing. For the most part, it just seems to happen at the worst possible time; especially when, in my opinion, it’s usually over something trivial. “He looked at me funny,” or “He is in my bedroom!”

And then there is also the equality piece, or their perception of equity. “Why is his piece bigger than mine?” “Why did she get new boots and I didn’t?” Did I ever give them the impression that their needs are equal? I certainly don’t remember if I did.

When my daughter was born my Aunt Dolly bought me a book called “Siblings Without Rivalry: how to help your children live together so you can live too” by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.  It took me a while before I got to reading it, but was so glad when I did… I picked up some great tips like these:

Don’t have your kids compete.

Easy enough… however when they were young, I found myself in a rush saying “Who will be the fastest to get their boots on”… I was causing rivalry. I quickly changed to “let’s race against a timer or against mommy” – I made them a team!

Resist the urge to compare.

Look at school report cards separately… I still do this now and the kids know that we set aside time to review their report cards individually. We make special time for each one to talk about their progress according to their abilities. I am so glad I’ve started this, as academics come easily to one and not the other.

Children don’t need to be treated equally. They need to be treated uniquely.

  • Instead of giving equal amounts… give according to need
  • Instead of showing equal love… show the child they are loved uniquely
  • Instead of giving equal time… give time according to need

I quickly appreciated that as a parent I did have influence on my kids and the rivalry that could be. As Mazlish and Faber said… “We can either intensify the competition or reduce it. We can drive hostile feelings underground or allow them to be vented safely. We can accelerate the fighting or make cooperation possible.”

As my kids age and their fighting becomes more sophisticated, so do their skills to deal with it. I know they will still fight, but I am comforted that they are learning conflict resolution as a life skill.

Now that they are entering the tween years, I know I can have an effect on sibling rivalry and can make a difference to decrease it and their fighting. This is a life-long journey and I look forward to each new stage with my kids. I am also always on the lookout for new parenting tips and resources. What are some of yours?

For more tips and hints about sibling rivalry, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Call  HaltonParents by dialing 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for over 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 13 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my 2 teens with my hubby in Halton.
This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Child/Tween, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Teen, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Parenting Your Toddler & Preschooler, Play, Growth & Development, Teens, Toddlers & Preschoolers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sibling rivalry! Oh what to do?

  1. Pingback: What about the siblings of a child with special needs? | HaltonParents

  2. Pingback: Preparing for a New Sibling | HaltonParents

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