5 ways to stop sibling rivalry

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — February 07, 2017
  • 1 / 6

    Competitiveness between siblings is often most intense when the age gap is around two years. And now that both your children are in primary school, the one-upmanship has greatly increased. 

    To prevent the atmosphere at home turning from relaxation to tension, it’s important to encourage cooperation instead.

    Rivalry between your children is strong at this age for several reasons, including:

    As your younger daughter establishes her identity more firmly, she starts to compare her talents and abilities with those of others.

    She wants to be better than her elder sibling, not because she dislikes him, but because that is one way of proving that she is capable.

    A small age gap means your children share similar interests and lifestyle. It’s only natural that competition arises when each tries to make progress in a shared activity.

    Petty niggling begins during a game together or when trying to decide which TV programme to watch.

    In a family with more than one child, each sibling realises that Mum and Dad have limited time and resources to go around.

    As far as your kids are concerned, attention paid to one means that there is less for the other. No wonder they start to compete with each other for your approval.

    You don’t have to live with the constant squabbling, though. Here are five ways to discourage competitiveness among siblings. 

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  • Develop separate interests
    2 / 6 Develop separate interests

    Where possible, direct your children towards separate activities. For instance, if one wants to attend gymnastic classes, her sister could sign up for music lessons. 

    This may not be convenient for you in the short-term, but in the long-term it helps to reduce competitiveness.

    Related: 10 tips for better sibling relationships

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  • Give each child individual attention
    3 / 6 Give each child individual attention

    Don’t force them to compete with each other for your attention. 

    Instead, make it a point to give each some individual attention daily. Set aside five or 10 minutes for each so that she can spend time alone with you.

    Related: 6 reasons for sibling rivalry

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  • Value each child’s achievements
    4 / 6 Value each child’s achievements

    No matter how your children compare to each other – and you probably know that they have their own strengths and weaknesses – give each approval for their effort and attainments.

    Related: Why sibling rivalry is good for my kids

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  • Provide opportunities for cooperation
    5 / 6 Provide opportunities for cooperation

    Rivalry between your kids is less likely when they are specifically given opportunities for cooperation.

    For instance, delegate a shared chore they have to complete together, such as setting cutlery on the table. 

    The more cooperation, the better.

    Related: Jealous kids: How you can help

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  • Avoid comparisons
    6 / 6 Avoid comparisons

    Whether well intentioned or not, comparisons between siblings are always divisive.

    So avoid statements like “Why can’t you keep your room tidy like your elder sister?” or “Why don’t you do your homework on time like your younger sister?”

    Related: Why you shouldn’t compare your kids

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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