Siblings without Rivalry

Who among us remembers growing up without fighting with our siblings? Hardly any! It was probably our favorite chore while growing up. Rivalry with siblings is common in many households around the world which obviously makes parenting a difficult job.

Most of the time, the gruesome rivalry between siblings generates out of jealously, competition, entitlement, and identity. While many rivalries die down once the children become adolescents, few rivalries continue intensely for a long period of time which can be a very frustrating and stressful experience for parents.

What Causes Sibling Rivalry?

PsychologyToday published an article about Adult Sibling Rivalry back in 1993 which explored different reasons behind sibling rivalry. According to the panel of experts, the sibling bond makes up a complicated relationship which is often influenced by factors such as parental treatment, birth order, personality, and individual experiences.

Judith Dunn, FBA, FMedSci, and a British Psychologist, pioneered sibling studies in both England and the US. Her observation in her own words is as such:

“Children are far more socially sophisticated than we ever imagined. That little 15-month-old or 17-month-old is watching like a hawk what goes on between her mother and older sibling. And the greater the difference in maternal affection and attention, the more hostility and conflict between the siblings.”

Siblings without rivalry
Siblings without rivalry: Elder brother loving younger

Here are some of the major reasons why siblings fight with each other

  • Each child recognizes and competes to define who they are as an individual.  As they begin discovering themselves and their innate talents, activities, or interests, they tend to separate themselves from their siblings.
  • The treatment of the parents is the most decisive reason for sibling rivalry. Children always observe and respond to the unequal amounts of attention and responsiveness they receive from their parents.
  • Elder siblings can feel that their relationship with their parents will diminish by the arrival of a new baby.
  • Each child goes through different developmental stages that affect their maturity and how well they respond to others. This will define their mood and how good they get along with others.
  • Siblings who are hungry, bored, or tired are more likely to start fighting with each other.
  • The lack of positive disciplining from parents often leaves children to behave harshly with others. The lack of positive attention in their life pushes them to pick fights with each other instead.
  • Siblings often fight more when parents normalize aggression and fighting between siblings as an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.
  • Not spending more time sharing regular and enjoyable family time together can often lead the children to engage in conflict.
  • The lack of attention paid to children because of stress in the parents’ lives will leave children to act as they like, which often becomes aggressive.
  •  Stress in your children’s lives can decrease their ability to tolerate frustration.

Tips For Siblings without Rivalry

Siblings without Rivalry is the number one New York Times Best-selling guide published in 1987 by  Adele Faber who extensively wrote about parenting and families. Using her experience as the communicator between adults and children, she came up with Siblings without rivalry book that dealt with reducing hostility and generating goodwill between siblings.

sibling without rivalry
Siblings without rivalry: two sister playing together

Deborah Gold, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and sociology and senior fellow at the Center for Aging and Human Development at Duke University claims that,

 “There is sibling rivalry; it does exist but it needs to be put into perspective so that brothers and sisters don’t think they’re weird if they get along well.”

According to many parenting and child development, raising siblings without rivalry is very much possible. The larger role to mediate between siblings is always done by the parents themselves.

Introduce them to their Sibling Early

The preparation to introduce a new sibling starts early. It’s never too early to introduce your child to its future sibling. To make matters easier, you can ask your child if he or she would prefer a new sibling. You can inquire about them during your early pregnancy or before even considering having a new child.

Keep your child informed throughout the process beginning at pregnancy until delivery. This will help them grow empathy for the new sibling.

Experts suggest that you should encourage your child to talk to your future baby and refer to it as their brother and sister. Giving them a positive outlook from an early age can help shape their attitude towards other children, including their siblings.

Be Careful about Intervening

Parents often intervene when their two children are fighting or arguing. It’s easy to intervene and stop the fight but the cost you may pay for it later can be expensive. Intervening often puts you in the firing line from both sides.

And if you’re supporting one child over the other, the other is likely to grow resentment towards you. Try resisting yourself from involving and see if they can resolve it themselves. Try finding unique ways to stop the fighting.

Fighting Is Normal

Fights among siblings are normal and unavoidable. It happens at any age. You cannot completely prevent it but you can prepare yourself and your children to resolve issues without getting violent. Inform them about your own experience with your siblings which can help them shape a different perspective towards their sibling.

Family Meetings

Children raised in a joint family with more siblings tend to be empathetic and loving towards others. If you don’t enjoy living in a joint family, you can take your children to regular family meetings where they can catch up with their cousins and elders.

With constant exposure to different family settings, your children will begin respecting others. This attitude could prolong inside your own home and your children will begin fighting less.

Fairness Not Equality

Many experts suggest you treat your children equally no matter what. However, this would enforce the underlying issue to persist and make things worst later. What do you do when one kid is in the wrong? When you treat them equally, you let your child who had done wrong to walk away easily.

Equality is a good idea but it doesn’t always work. Make fair demands such as more chores means more privileges. This will help teach your kid to do more chores to enjoy more privileges.

Family Time

Spend time with your children. Although both parents tend to be busy with work, it’s always a good idea to spend time together like during breakfast and dinner. Go for a family vacation where you all can spend time together.

No matter how busy you are, family time is always important. This lets your kids know that you’re always there for them. They’ll start relying on your more and adhere to your decisions. Family time also promotes empathy among siblings. Remember, the family is always the first place that your kids learn from.

Ignore the Small Things

You don’t have to make a fuss about everything your children end up doing. Siblings are always going to fight or argue, it is something that is always going to happen. Sometimes, you can let them go at it and ignore the small arguments.

One on One Time

Although your children are part of a group called family, they are still individuals. It’s important for them to share their feeling, thoughts, and other important issues with you. Give them their one-on-one time and let them know you’re there for them.

Sometimes you may end up giving more time to one child over the other which can make your child get jealous. You can remediate this by giving them more time later. Find out what’s bothering them about their sibling. This way, you can listen to them and provide your feedback.

siblings without rivalry
siblings without rivalry: two adorable siblings posing for a photo

Cooperation over Competition

Among siblings, there’s always some sort of competition going on like who’s going to finish eating first or who’ll do the chore first. This is common in almost every household. However, in the long run, this can prove to be detrimental to their growth.

Letting them compete with one another can also turn them against each other. When one child is always winning the competitions, the other child might lose self-confidence and self-esteem. Let them know when they can compete with each other, and prevent enforcing unhealthy competitions between the siblings.


Like spending time with them, you would have to listen to them as well. Listening to your children lets them know you’re there.  If they ended up having a bad fight, you can take each one aside and listen to their side of the story.

Make sure you let them say everything they want. Hearing them out is important. By doing this, you’ll encourage them to speak without fear of repercussions.

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