Sibling rivalry management tips


Coping with sibling rivalry is a challenge for most parents who have to put up with fights and arguments on a daily basis.

Sibling rivalry is quite common and with it comes tension and stress for the family, including the siblings themselves. Fighting amongst siblings is an issue most families have to put up with for many years.

Read more: How to deal with sibling rivalry
Welcoming a new sibling 
As common as sibling conflict may be it does not make it any easier for the parent who has to endure the constant bickering and fighting every day.

So why do siblings fight with each other? Ilze Alberts, a family psychologist in Johannesburg, explains that one of the main reasons for sibling rivalry is vying for their parent’s love and attention. “Children compete with each other for their parent’s attention on a subconscious level; they want to be the parent’s favourite child “she explains.

Often children do not reason that it is possible for their parents to love them all equally, they seem to think the parents love is only be reserved for one child hence the ongoing war with their brothers or sisters.

Ilze explains that sibling conflict is not necessarily a bad thing and to a certain extent it plays a key role in a child’s development. “It helps them develop conflict resolution skills and to stand up for themselves which are part of life,” she advises.

How can you as the parent help when it comes to sibling rivalry?

  • Try to stay neutral when your kids are arguing. Taking sides only makes the situation worse.
  • Provide guidance to your kids on how they should go about resolving the problem they are facing. This way you help them develop problem resolution skills.
  • Avoid punishing only one child. Often parents are drawn to protect the younger child and punish the older one. For example, if they need to be punished then send both to their rooms or take away both of their cell phones.

Conflict amongst your kids is considered normal and part of family life. Sometimes though the sibling fights may seem inappropriate and ‘abnormal’ to you as the parent. So how do you know if the rivalry has reached an ‘unhealthy’ state? Ilze advises the best way to know is based on how you as the parent feel about your kid’s fights.

Is it causing you to feel stressed or frustrated? Has the fights moved from verbal to physical abuse? Are your kids displaying constant hostility towards each other? Sibling fighting that cross certain boundaries and no longer feel ‘normal’ may signal a more serious concern. Parents may need to turn to counselling intervention in such situations.

Ilze also importantly emphasises that just because siblings share the same blood it does not mean they have to like each other. Sibling rivalry may continue well into adult years and the children might not share that sibling closeness a parent so desires. It is a choice made by your children and as their parent you should respect their choices.

How are you coping with sibling rivalry?

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