Siblings can be best friends sometimes, but sibling rivalry is a real thing. It’s a fact of family life. Anyone who has ever had a sibling knows this to be true and if you’re a parent to more than one child, you have probably experienced more sibling fights than you care to remember.
I've heard and read about sibling rivalry, but didn't experience it until having my second child. My family dynamics are unique. Although I have half-siblings, there is a large age gap and I grew up like an only child because none of them lived with me. My experience with siblings was limited to brief visits, which I viewed as exciting. (But I didn't have anyone getting into my stuff or in my space constantly!)
Boy, have my kids given me a dose of how chaotic sibling interactions can be. They love each other one minute, and are fighting the next!
So why is this? What makes siblings fight?
Well, there are a lot of theories about this. Some believe that it’s just a normal part of the family dynamic that kids will fight for their parents’ attention and also to best one another. Whatever the reasons, you can bet that your children will bicker, fight, and compete with one another from time to time.
Sibling Rivalry: Ways To Easily Stop The Fights
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Have them keep a sibling diary – Get a notebook or journal of some type. A simple composition book will do. Then have the siblings write notes to one another in this book. They are allowed to freely express their opinions but must not attack one another or name call. This can be a great way for them to express their feelings toward one another but not face to face and you, the parent, can moderate it.
Don’t assign blame – One thing that your kids will try to do when they are bickering with one another is blame the other. You’ve been there before, I bet. One kid is blaming the other and while the other insists it wasn’t him. This can be a very frustrating position to be in as a parent. They want you to pick a side but this is the last thing you should do. Instead, encourage your children to talk about what role they each played in the situation and how it escalated. Teach them to take accountability for their own actions rather than assigning and shifting blame.
Remove the problem – When siblings cannot get along over a specific toy, or game, or movie, remove the thing that is causing the issue. If they want to enjoy it, they will need to learn to get along. If you’re doing an activity and they can’t get along, stop the activity until they can. Not always, but often, removing the problem is a quick way to end sibling bickering. Sibling rivalry sometimes boils down to jealousy. As a parent, removing the factor that creates jealousy can be the solution.
Give them space – Sometimes you just need to sit back and give them time and space to try to resolve their own conflict. If you are always too quick to jump in and try to fix things, one or more of your children might be doing this just to get your attention or to get a reaction. Even if that is not the case, it’s important your children learn conflict resolution on their own. So when possible, try to give them the space to work things out on their own.
Encourage healthy rivalry – If your kids seem really competitive with one another, find ways to turn this into a positive. A little healthy sibling rivalry can be a good thing. For example, we sometimes turn getting ready for bed into a friendly race. Or who will do their chore first. There’s nothing wrong with friendly competition that turns a potential argument into a fun activity.
With these tips in mind, you’re ready to start building positive relationships between your children. Remember that you are there to love them, support them, encourage them, and teach them. Don’t let sibling rivalry get in the way of you being the parent they need you to be.