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Parenting Education > Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

Children need to have their feelings acknowledged.
One child has taken something from the other without permission.
The victim becomes the persecutor and chases the other one around screaming, "I'm going to kill you."

They need to be shown how to express angry feelings acceptably.

Be careful that you are not overtly playing favorites.
We sometimes can't help but favor one child who is maybe more like us. Be aware of this, so that you can be on the lookout for subtle behaviors. Get your children and spouse's opinion.

Resist the urge to compare siblings.
"Johnny, I don't know why you can't study like your sister does. If you did, you'd be making straight A's too."

Instead describe what you see, what you feel, and what needs to be done.
"Johnny, I'm frustrated because the amount of time you spend studying relates directly to your grades, and they're both
unacceptable. I want you to bring home a list of assignments, do them, and check with me before you turn on the television."

Children don't need to be treated equally, but uniquely. Give individual attention to each child and discipline each child according to their individual strengths and weaknesses and age.

Don't use labels to describe your child, use descriptors.
Don't call a child stupid, dumb, a bully, a wimp.

If Johnny attacks his brother, attend to the brother without attacking Johnny.

Use group rewards and penalties.
Reward them for playing nicely. If they are fighting over tell them they can not play with it until they decide how to do it
fairly and peacefully.


Level 1
Try to ignore normal bickering.

Level 2
Situation heating up. Adult intervention might be helpful.
Acknowledge their anger, reflect each child's point of view, describe the problem with respect, express confidence in their ability to work out a solution, leave the scene.

Level 3
Situation possibly dangerous
Ask if this is a "play fight" or a "real fight"
Play fighting by mutual consent only.

Level 4
Situation definitely dangerous. Adult intervention necessary.
Describe the danger. Separate the children for cooling off period.

1. Call a meeting of family.
2. Explain ground rules.
3. Write down each child's feelings and concerns. Read them aloud.
4. Allow each child time for rebuttal.
5. Invite everyone to suggest as many solutions as possible. Write down all ideas without evaluating them. Let the kids go first.
6. Decide upon the solutions you can all live with.
7. Follow up with another meeting to see how it went.

Author: David W. Kidder, Ph.D.
For more information, see SIBLINGS WITHOUT RIVALRY by Adele Faber and Elaine Marsh

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