Amelia is a professor, consultant, writer, lover of photography, an over committer, big thinker, creativity, authenticity & sanity seeker. A contradictory blend of southern charm and steel wool and lover of all things chocolate. You can find Amelia at and at

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Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

The only thing more uncomfortable than being in a conflict is being around one! As a parent, watching your children argue and bicker with one another is one of the most trying experiences. Parents have some options when it comes to how best to deal with these issues.  Some parents let their kids work it out by doing nothing, leaving the kids to resolve matters on their own. Other parents dive right into the action and solve problems for their children just to achieve peace and order quickly.

The healthiest approach is probably a combination of these two approaches. To teach children how to work out conflicts with each other, and develop important relationship skills, it is best to give children time to resolve the conflict on their own. If they are unable to, or the argument escalates to insults or fists flying, then you will need to intervene. Ideally your intervention will allow for them to solve the problem themselves, but with your guidance.

Here is my go to tool if I need to intervene:

1. I acknowledge what the problem appears to be and feelings related to it.

2. I ask the children what they can do to solve the problem

3. I let them know that they need to solve the problem on their own in a respectful way. If they cannot or will not work together to resolve the issue then I will solve it for them. I also underscore that if I have to resolve the problem, they will likely not like my solution. Additionally, they will not be off of the hook as each child will still have to discuss ways they could have resolved the issue.

This process can feel time consuming, especially at the late afternoon, early evening time of day when homework, dinner and activities tend to converge into one bundle of chaos. Despite, the return on investment is there. Children begin to develop the necessary skills to resolve conflict and they become familiar with this process and often a simple reminder to work their issues out keeps them moving in the right direction.

How do you deal with sibling rivalry in your home?

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Comments (4)

  1. Pingback: Sibling Rivalry: Books and Helpful Links

  2. Amelia 10/11/2012 at 2:10 pm

    Adrian, well stated! I have not considered this issue through that perspective but you are right on the mark! Thank you

  3. adrian 10/10/2012 at 6:32 pm

    I did an interesting post about this a while back. I think I need to dig it out of my archives and re-post it. In it, I compare sibling rivalry to bullying.

    Why would it be OK for a kid to do something to a sibling that you would never allow them to do to some random kid on a playground? The worst part of it is that the bully lives in your house and is always going to be bigger and stronger than you, so you can never have a day free from the torment.

    In my case, my boys were widely spaced apart – almost 10 years, so I couldn’t allow bullying for physical reasons, but I think parents need to take it just as seriously as if their kid were a bully on the playground and send a clear message that it isn’t OK to treat a sibling badly – either physically or emotionally.

    They don’t have to be best friends all the time, but they do need to treat each other with a certain measure of kindness and respect or at least learn to ignore each other. It may not stop the problem altogether, but it will certainly minimize it.

  4. Pingback: How Do You Deal with Sibling Rivalry « « TodaysMama TodaysMama