Behavior & Psychology

Sibling rivalry: Why do siblings fight? Causes and managing tips

It is perfectly normal for two siblings to argue and fight with each other and usually, this behavior comes of the rivalry and jealousy. If you ask, nine out of ten parents who have more than one kid, will tell you that they deal with this problem. Although, you should always remember that sibling rivalry is a temporary situation. I have talked to several mothers about this issue, most of them told me:

“I can’t stand them anymore, they are like cat and dog!”

“They yell, they pull things away from each other! I don’t know what to do!”

“Why are they doing this? What do they want?”

There are many factors that contribute to the cause of rivalry. Such as age, gender, family status and temperament. 

“I won’t give it to you!”, “It’s mine!”, “I wish you didn’t exist!”, “I don’t love you!”, “You are awful sister or brother!”, “I don’t want to play with you!” These are some of the phrases that siblings utter, when they argue with each other.

In fact, through the quarrels and refusal to share material things, such as toys, children externalize their hidden desire not to share the exclusive love and attention of parents. For the eldest children, who were the only focus of attention, before the younger sibling was born, the emotions are very intense. Suddenly, everything splits in two. Over time, the situation normalizes. Children start to realize that there is nothing to share, since everything they have is common. Like the motherly love and hugs. Jealousy and rivalry are replaced by love for each other. I remember when I was a child, we had the same problem with my older sister, but as we were growing up that negative feeling slowly faded away. 

Until that happens, how to deal with sibling rivalry?

As parents, you need to realize that each child has a unique personality and needs. Therefore, it is important to remember that each child needs a different approach. If, for example, the youngest child wants to play hide and seek, don’t force the older one to do the same.

  • Don’t compare your children and don’t do things that lead to rivalry between them. “Look how quiet your brother is sitting, while you are running up and down!”
  • Depending on the abilities and character of each child, you should have different expectations.
  • In order to avoid violent behaviors, identify the causes of conflicts and unpleasant feelings through discussion.
  • Whenever possible, let the children solve their disputes on their own. Don’t intervene, if you don’t know who started the fight first, you might do wrong one of them.
  • Remove the collision object. For example, a toy that kids don’t agree to share.
  • Your intervention is necessary in case of verbal or physical violence.
  • Express your love more often by spending a little quality time, with each child individually.
  • Say well done, when they play nicely and calmly.
  • When the tension peaks, you can hug them all together or hold hands, until they calm down.
  • Distract them with something else or change the subject. Personally, it has helped me several times. For example, when they were arguing, I said, “Oh, did you see the beautiful bird sitting on the tree?” and they were like, “Where where? Oh yes, I saw it! ” or “Children! Remember when we went to that big park with the pond? How about we go there one of these days again? Didn’t we have a great time? “
  • Finally, it is very important to be the right example for your children. Parents who constantly shout and argue, direct children to similar behaviors.

How do you manage sibling rivalry? I would be happy to hear your thoughts!



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