Sibling Rivalry

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Posted on by Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff)

Image from the 'Just Like When Cards' by Quirky Kid

Fighting between siblings, or sibling rivalry,  is a common concern among parents. A certain amount of arguing between children in families is normal, and is one of the ways that children learn the importance of sorting out problems independently, respecting people’s feelings and belongings. Additionally, learning how to fight fairly without hurting each other, within the home environment, may assist children in their ability to sort out issues in future relationships.

A degree of sibling rivalry is normal as learning to live together can be difficult when dealing with the different ages, needs and personalities involved. As children reach different stages of development, their evolving needs can significantly impact on the way they interact and relate with each other.

What are the Common Causes of Sibling Rivalry?

Jealousy and competition are the main causes for sibling rivalry and fighting.

A child may feel that their sibling is receiving more love or attention from a parent, and in response may try to ‘take it out’ on their sibling. Rates of sibling rivalry are lower in families where children feel they are treated equally by their parents.

Other factors that may influence how often sibling rivalry occurs include:

  • Gender and age – sibling rivalry is most likely to occur when the children are of the same gender and close together in age.
  • Toddlers – tend to be possessive of their toys and are learning to assert their will. If a brother or sister attempts to pick up one of their toys, the toddler may react aggressively. This often contributes to sibling rivalry among toddlers.
  • School-aged children – have a strong concept of fairness and equality and may not understand why a younger sibling is receiving additional attention.
  • Teenagers – are developing a sense of individuality and independence and may resent having to spend time looking after younger siblings or helping with house work contributing to sibling rivalry.
  • Individual personalities and temperaments – For instance, if one child tends to cling and be drawn to parents for their love and affection, this can be resented by siblings who don’t seek out or don’t receive the same treatment by their parents.
  • Sibling with special needs – a child may pick up on the amount of time and energy their sibling receives, and act out on this disparity for attention due to lack of understanding of the situation.
  • Examples parents set – the way in which parents resolve conflicts and problems has a significant impact on the way that children interact and resolve their own conflicts. For instance, when parents resolve their issues in a respectful and productive manner, the likelihood that the children of such parents will adopt these techniques is increased. As a parent it is important to manage sibling rivalry.

What can parents do to prevent sibling rivalry?

  • Spend special time with each child on a regular basis to avoid sibling rivalry.
  • Together, set ground rules for acceptable behaviour, such as no name calling, no yelling or hitting.
  • Provide children with their own space and time to do their own thing. For example to play with toys by themselves or to own something special that they don’t have to share. This will help to reduce sibling rivalry.
  • Try not to compare children with each other.
  • Be generous with affection.
  • Have fun together as a family. This will establish a peaceful way for children to spend time together. Playing board games, throwing a ball or watching a movie together are some good ways to do this.

If parents have to get involved….

  • Separate kids until they are calm. This will stop the fight from escalating and will provide an opportunity for emotions to die down. Later the fight can be revisited as a learning experience.
  • Parents should be aware of their own feelings, and to remain fair, even when feeling more frustration towards one child.
  • Try not to take sides, anyone who is involved is partly responsible.
  • Set up a “win-win” situation so that each child gains something. For example, if both children wanted to play with the same toy, suggest playing a game together.
  • Reminding children of the ground rules  will reduce sibling rivalry.
  • Help them listen to each other’s feelings. If required, assist them to work out ways to solve the problem and reduce sibling rivalry.

When possible don’t get involved in the fight. As children learn to cope with disputes, they learn important skills, such as valuing another person’s perspective, how to compromise and negotiate and how to control aggressive impulses.

However, if it is evident that a child is feeling upset, help them find ways to express their feelings before a fight starts. Such as playing with playdough or water for younger children or going for a run or listening to music for older children.

Sometimes, the sibling rivalry becomes so severe that it disrupts daily functioning and can significantly affect children emotionally.

How can the Quirky Kid Clinic help?

There are many ways we can help you to manage sibling rivalry. If you believe your family would benefit from some assistance with sibling rivalry, please contact the Quirky Kid Clinic on (02) 9362 9297 to discuss the following options:

Recommended Resources:

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References:

This post was developed by Corina Vogler, Provisional Psychologist, employed by the Quirky Kid Clinic.

Information for this fact sheet was taken from Kimberley O’Brien, Child Psychologist, kidshealth.org, and the Raising Children Network.

Fighting between siblings, or sibling rivalry,  is a common concern among parents. A certain amount of arguing between children in families is normal, and is one of the ways that children learn the importance of respecting other peoples feelings, belongings and to sort out problems independently. Additionally, Learning how to fight fairly and without hurting each other within the home environment may assist children in their ability to sort out issues in future relationships.

A degree of sibling rivalry is normal as learning to live together can be difficult when dealing with the different ages, needs and personalities involved. As children reach different stages of development, their evolving needs can significantly impact on the way they interact and relate with each other.

What are the Common Causes of Sibling Rivalry?

Jealousy and Competition are the main causes for siblings to fight and sibling rivalry.

A child may feel that their sibling is receiving more love or attention from a parent, and in response may try to ‘take it out’ on their sibling. Rates of sibling rivalry are lower in families where children feel they are treated equally by their parents.

Other factors that may influence how often sibling rivalry occur include:

  • Gender and age – sibling rivalry is most likely to occur when the children are of the same gender and close together in age
  • Toddlers – tend to be possessive of their toys and are learning to assert their will. If a brother or sister attempt to pick up one of their toys the toddler may react aggressively.
  • School-aged children – have a strong concept of fairness and equality and may not understand why a younger sibling is receiving additional attention.
  • Teenagers – are developing a sense of individuality and independence and may resent having to spend time looking after younger siblings or helping with house work.
  • Individual personalities and temperaments – For instance, if one child tends to be clingy and drawn to parents for their love and affection, this can be resented by siblings who don’t seek out or don’t receive the same treatment by their parents.
  • Sibling with special needs – a child may pick up on the amount of time and energy their sibling receives, and act out on this disparity for attention or due to lack of understanding of the situation.
  • Examples parents’ set – the way in which parents resolve conflict and problems has a significant impact on the way that children interact and resolve their own conflict. For instance, when parents resolve their issues in a respectful and productive manner, the likelihood that the children of such parents will adopt these techniques is increased.

What parents can do to prevent fights

  • Spend special time with each child on a regular basis.
  • Together set ground rules for acceptable behaviour, such as no name calling, no yelling or hitting.
  • Provide children with their own space and time to do their own thing. For example to play with toys by themselves or to own something special that they don’t have to share.
  • Try not to compare children with each other.
  • Be generous with affection.
  • Have fun together as a family. This will establish a peaceful way for children to spend time together. Playing board games, throwing a ball or watching a movie together are some good ways to do this.

If parents have to get involved

  • Separate kids until they are calm. This will stop the fight from escalating and will provide an opportunity for emotions to die down. Later the fight can be revisited as a learning experience.
  • Parents should be aware of their own feelings, and to remain fair, even when feeling more frustration towards one child.
  • Try not to take sides, anyone who is involved is partly responsible.
  • Set up a “win-win” situation so that each child gains something. For example, if both children wanted to play with the same toy, suggest playing a game together.
  • Remind children of ground rules.
  • Help them listen to each others feelings. If required, assist them to work out ways to solve the problem.

When possible don’t get involved in the fight. As children learn to cope with dispute, they learn important skills, such as valuing another person’s perspective, how to compromise and negotiate and how to control aggressive impulses.
However, if it is evident that a child is feeling upset, help them find ways to express their feelings before a fight starts. Such as playing with playdough or water for younger children or going for a run or listening to music for older children.

Sometimes, the conflict between siblings becomes so sever that it disrupts daily functioning and can significantly effect children emotionally.
How the Quirky Kid Clinic can help
If you believe your family would benefit from some assistance with sibling rivalry. Please contact the Quirky Kid Clinic on (02) 9362 9297 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              (02) 9362 9297      end_of_the_skype_highlighting to discuss the following options:

  • Individual counselling and therapy with one of our experienced Child Psychologists.
  • Family counselling with one of our experienced Child Psychologists.
  • “Raised on Praise” workshops for parents.

Information for this fact sheet was taken from Kimberley O’Brien, Child Psychologist, kidshealth.org, and the Raising Children Network.

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2 Responses to “Sibling Rivalry”

April 20, 2016 at 3:58 pm, Rose Pontinelli said:

Hi, my name is rose, I have 3 children Isabel 12 years old, Lucas 9, and Marcus 8 years old.. I can’t handle the way they all don’t respect each other or us the parents, they continue to argue even though we set boundaries and rules can you please help me thank you rose Pontinelli

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April 25, 2016 at 6:04 pm, Leonardo Rocker (Quirky Kid Staff) said:

Hello Rose and thank you for your comment about sibling rivalry between your children. Our team has just emailed you.

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