Parenting Child Psychology and Behaviour

Sibling Fights: Tips for Parents

Shikha Batra
3 to 7 years

Created by Shikha Batra
Updated on Jul 29, 2020

Sibling Fights Tips for Parents
Reviewed by Expert panel

Does it get frustrating and upsetting for you to hear and watch your children fight with one another every now and then?


Do you sometimes feel more like a referee than a parent?


Do you also feel you are at your wits’ end in looking for ways to control these never-ending conflicts between your children? 


If yes, you are not alone in this as sibling rivalry is inevitable. These fights can make us parents despair and force us to think was it even the right decision to give birth to the second child in the first place and will the siblings ever get along? By accepting the fact that siblings will fight no matter what, parents will be in a stronger position to come up with plans for managing the fighting. 


What is sibling rivalry?


Sibling rivalry is the fighting between brothers and sisters. It could be due to a type of competition or animosity among siblings, whether blood-related or not. It usually continues throughout childhood up until they grow up as they compete for practically every possible thing from toy cars or dolls to parents’ attention.


How do parents feel about their children constantly fighting with each other?


Most parents feel exhausted, worn out, angry, furious, helpless, sad, confused, disappointed, exasperated, powerless, overwhelmed, agitated, and sense a feeling of hopelessness in extreme cases dealing with constant bickering and teasing that goes on in the house every now and then.


Why do siblings fight with each other?


Sibling rivalry often starts even before the second child is born. The evolving needs of siblings can significantly affect how they relate to one another as they reach different stages of development. There could be many reasons for the siblings to fight with each other. These include fights over:

  • belongings such as toys, clothes room, books, parents’ attention etc,

  • presumptions that the other child is getting preferential treatment,

  • taking over household responsibilities,

  • taking care of younger siblings,

  • being forced to spend time with each other,

  • individual temperaments including mood, disposition, adaptability,

  • the difference in their personalities,

  • one child getting special treatment due to illness or learning/emotional issues, 


Siblings might also fight with each other to seek parental attention, feel powerful, connect with each other, and /or do away with boredom as annoying or teasing a sibling seems more exciting than anything else.  


What are the different forms in which siblings can provoke each other?


The siblings can torment each other in many ingenious and creative ways. Some of these could include stealing each others’ belongings, blaming, hitting, arguing, lying, name-calling, breaking something that belongs to the other sibling, throwing things at each other, poking, hiding things which are important to the other one, tattling, complaining about each other or even challenging a belief. 


Is sibling rivalry always bad? 


There is actually not much reason for parents to fret upon over siblings’ fights as these might have some positive outcomes as well in the long run. The children might learn some important life skills while indulging in these fights such as dealing with power struggles, being assertive, negotiate and to compromise. They might also learn to manage conflicts and resolve differences in this process of arguing that they do with each other as a part of these conflicts. So, sibling rivalry is not all that bad and is rather important for children to learn these skills while they grow up with each other sharing the same space, accepting each others’ differences. 


Is it important for a parent to intervene in seeing their children fight with each other?


Parents should not get involved each time they see their children indulge in a fight with each other as they would expect them to come to their rescue every time thereon rather than learning to work out the problems on their own. Parents might also risk their personal bias to creep in inadvertently, which might foster even more resentment. Stepping in is advisable only if there is a danger of them physically hurting each other wherein they could be separated until they are calm. Coach them to put their feelings in appropriate words if they indulge in name-calling. 


What are some of the ways to manage sibling rivalry?


Some of the tips for constructively managing sibling rivalry would include:

  1. Treating each child equally by not favouring one more than the other on account of age, birth order, gender,  or vulnerabilities.

  2. Have one-on-one interaction by giving each child a turn with your undivided attention.

  3. Avoid comparison between siblings as this will only lead to further competition. Instead, focus on each child’s strengths and treat them as unique individuals.

  4. Create opportunities for cooperation and compromise by creating a positive environment at home wherein family members support each other rather than competing with each other. 

  5. Teach your children the skill of conflict resolution by listening to the other child’s point of view.

  6. Stay calm and objective by staying out of arguments until they are harmless bickerings and there are no chances of anyone getting hurt.

  7. Model for your children when it comes to handling conflict and set a good example for them.

  8. Lay down a list of basic rules keeping up with your family values such as ‘no hitting’,’ no name-calling’ etc.

  9. Focus your attention on ending the argument rather than on ‘who started it’ by engaging in long discussions about what happened.

  10. Do not set up a reward and punishment system by giving them a time-out as a way to diffuse the situation, instead do a  role play to help them build those conflict-resolution skills.  

  11. Help children to develop a sense of empathy and respect for how siblings feel by encouraging communication.

  12. Praise your children when they are nice to each other as positive attention may further reinforce this behaviour. 

  13. Cheer on positive attributes such as teamwork, kindness, empathy and persistence.

  14. Consider outside help if things seem to be out of hand especially when sibling rivalry has become a cause of stress for the entire family. Seek family therapy in that case.


What are some of the important takeaways for parents?


Some of the important learnings for parents would include:


Sibling rivalry is inevitable if you have more than one child and we should let go of the idea that we can eliminate it and create a totally harmonious relationship between siblings. However, these feuds are more manageable if we try and understand their causes. Also, we need to rethink that these arguments between siblings are always bad and understand that these can be beneficial by offering our children the opportunities to learn life skills. Besides, one needs to be aware of how our parents handled the rivalry between us and our siblings and discard the approaches that were not helpful and use those which are more effective.

With the right tools and methods, we can end these feuds for good. 


Please pour in your valuable feedback and share your thoughts with us on how you have been managing sibling rivalry and encouraging healthy sibling relationships. 



This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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