Sibling Rivalry: Tackle It With These 4 Strategies


If you have more than one child — or if you grew up with siblings — you know all too well the joys of sibling rivalry. One minute the kids are playing and getting along just fine. Then, suddenly, one child decides he/she wants to play with the same toy and the not-so-friendly exchange echoes across the house. It’s an all too familiar scenario.

Two sisters hiking together (Sibling Rivalry: Tackle It With These 4 Strategies Vanessa Santamaria Contributor Miami Mom Collective)
Sisters holding hands while hiking together.

But there are 4 ways we can help our children learn to get along better with others — and play nice.

Take Time to Listen

First, we can listen to each of our child’s concerns, let them vent their frustrations, and then work together to make things better. It can be frustrating to have one or more siblings with differing personalities, so let’s try to be understanding while at the same time staying calm and teaching them what is right and wrong. Encourage communication. Let them know you understand their feelings and show them how they can compromise and share with each other in a more positive way.

Avoid Comparisons

Every child is unique and each one has their own strengths, as well as weaknesses. Take time to praise your child for something they did exceedingly well or an act that made you really proud of them. By focusing on the positive and working with them on the things they may not yet excel at, you are helping them learn and grow without comparing them to others. Comparison can lead to insecurity and make them question their abilities, so be mindful of that. Instead, take time to celebrate their individuality.

Encourage Them to Work Together

By encouraging them to resolve things on their own and work together to find solutions, you eliminate the need to step in every time a disagreement ensues. It also helps them become more independent. If your kids are getting along nicely and behaving as they should, let them know you appreciate that. They’ll see that it has not gone unnoticed.

Set Some Family Rules

If sibling disputes have gotten out of control, set some house rules and review them with each child so they know what the expectations are. Let them know these are the steps we are taking as a family to ensure we are all doing our part to refrain from hurtful behavior and maintain our family values. As a preventative strategy, you can print out and hang these house rules in a shared space where they can easily find them. If necessary, remind them to go review the rules when a dispute happens.

Benefits of Sibling Rivalry

According to The Center for Parenting Education, having your children get into disputes isn’t all bad. They state that children are learning important life skills while fighting with siblings, including:

  • How to negotiate and compromise
  • How to manage conflict and resolve differences
  • How to be assertive and stand up for their beliefs also reports that growing up with a sibling can make you more altruistic. It can “Improve your mental health, make you happier, and can make you live longer.” Siblings are one of the longest relationships you will ever have in your lifetime — and you get to experience the best and worst times with them. This means that they learn to share things, control their emotions, and have more empathy for others.

So, while dealing with sibling rivalry may test our patience as parents and drive us over the edge at times, let’s try to look on the bright side and focus on the positive. I always tell my girls they’re very lucky to have each other because not everyone has a sibling. In fact, friendships and relationships can come and go, but your sibling will always be there — no matter what.

Vanessa's daughters playing in the pool (Sibling Rivalry: Tackle It With These 4 Strategies Vanessa Santamaria Contributor Miami Mom Collective)
Siblings enjoying summer fun in the pool.

P.S. When my 9-year-old daughter heard I was writing a story about sibling rivalry, this was her suggestion: “When all else fails, jump in the pool together because that will usually solve everything!” Ha, ha!

Happy parenting,