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6 Strategies to Handle Sibling Rivalry


Sibling rivalry: it can turn your home from a peaceful place to a war zone. We all want our children to get along. The question is, how do you best avoid sibling conflicts? Here are 5 parenting tips that can help bring contentment to your home.

1. Be Empathetic

The most important thing for your children to know is that you care about them. When there are sibling conflicts, it is important to hear each child's version of what happened, and then to express your understanding of each child's feelings. No one wants to feel misunderstood, and if each of your children feels listened to and valued, sibling rivalry will tend to decrease.

2. Don't Take Sides

As tempting as it may seem to side with the child who is "right," don't. Sibling rivalry is exacerbated when kids feel that parents have a favorite who is always sided with. Try to see the merits of each child's views, and help promote a solution that leaves everyone satisfied (if not totally happy). Praise each child for his strengths and gifts regularly, and he may have less reason to feel picked on by a sibling.

3. Use Distraction

Especially with younger children, it's sometimes better to avoid a potential conflict than to try to deal with it after conflict is already occurring. If your children always end up fighting when they play with clay, and you see one of them getting out the clay container - suggest another activity. 

"Hey, it's nice outside; how about playing on the swingset?" or "Would you like to help me empty the dishwasher?" may head off a potential sibling conflict.

4. Avoid Boredom

Often, boredom leads to sibling rivalry. Kids who are bored are much more likely to pick at and provoke each other than kids who are actively involved. It will take more effort on your part at first to get your kids into the habit of entertaining themselves, but once you do, sibling rivalry will decrease. Remember: a bored child will find something to do, so direct your child in a positive direction.

5. Establish Rules and Guidelines

Even after you've applied all these parenting tips, there will still be times when sibling rivalry will occur. When this happens, make sure your family has guidelines in place to outline acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For instance, one rule could be "no name calling." Then if one child calls another a name, you are not playing favorites when you point that out - you're simply enforcing a family rule. 

6.  Help the Children Learn to Solve Their Own Problems

Beginning when your children are small, help them resolve sibling conflicts on their own. Let each child tell his side of the story, and then let each suggest a resolution. There will be times when the children cannot reach an agreement, but if you let them try, they will often be successful. Also, they will be learning valuable conflict resolution skills, which will benefit them throughout life.

You will never be able to eliminate all sibling conflicts. Most experts feel that some rivalry is even beneficial, because it teaches children to solve problems and to learn how to deal with others.  By following these tips, you will reduce your children's conflicts and be on the way to a happier family.


Susan Braun is a freelance writer living with her husband, three daughters, 2 rabbits, 2 gerbils and hedgehog in Indiana.  She writes at and Associated Content.

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