Sibling Rivalry

What is Sibling Rivalry? It’s brothers and/or sisters fighting over attention, status, or ownership. Child develop mentalists believe that sibling rivalry is to be expected–especially when there are age or gender differences. Children with a sibling who has development disabilities may feel that they are not getting enough attention because that sibling may require more attention. There are many ways children express their need for your attention. Here are a few tips to help you try to prevent sibling rivalry:

How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry and Give Children the Responsibility for Solving Conflicts

  • Teach alternatives to fighting and give children the responsibility for resolving conflicts. For example, “Find a way to play together or we’ll put the game away.”
  • Encourage discussion. For example, “Tell your brother how you feel when he calls you names.”
  • Set specific getting-along rules.
  • Don’t feel you have to treat each of your children exactly the same. Every child is unique and has unique needs. Your job is to be fair in that each child’s needs are met.
  • Do not encourage tattling. Ask the “tattler” to come up with a solution to “help” the other child.
  • Give the children the responsibility for solving conflicts.
  • Step in if the fights become physical.
  • Use time-out for all children involved in sibling conflicts. This teaches both children that fighting is not acceptable. Trying to figure out “who started it” is a no-win situation.
  • Avoid situations that bring about rivalries behavior.

Zolten Kristen, MA, and Nicholas Long, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 1997