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

Here are some tips for constructively managing sibling rivalry in your family.

  1. Treat each child equally. Sibling rivalry is normal when two children are close in age or of the same gender. You may make it worse if you treat children differently or favour one more than the other.

  2. Give each child a turn with your undivided attention. Make the time to do things separately with each child so they have some one-on-one interaction with you.

  3. Focus on each child’s strengths. Don’t make comparisons between children as it will only lead to further competition.

  4. Guide your children through difficult emotions. Acknowledge and talk them through feelings of anger, jealousy and resentment.

  5. Teach your children how to manage conflict without you. Show them how to solve problems themselves or to handle situations like teasing.

  6. Praise your children when they play well together. Your positive attention may encourage them to be nice to one another.

  7. Be fair. Make sure each child gets an even share of privileges and chores.

  8. Reinforce positive behaviour. Set up a reward and punishment system. For example, fighting leads to time out, but playing nicely earns a privilege such as staying up a bit later.

  9. Let the children sort out minor differences themselves. Working out ways to compromise with each other will prepare them for healthy relationships in the future.

  10. Be impartial. Taking sides and solving their fights for them is not going to teach your children how to sort out future arguments.

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Better Health Channel

Last updated: May 2012

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