SIBLING RIVALRY – can we do something about it?

Friday - 11 Sep 2020 by pedsvij0


Sibling is the best gift parents give to their child. The bond between siblings is a beautiful one, but the rivalry between them is inevitable,  especially in the growing years. In simple terms, sibling rivalry is the competition and fighting or jealousy between siblings. It usually starts after the birth of the second child due to a sense of insecurity. Many factors contribute to sibling rivalry.

Each child in the world is different and has his/her own set of talents and interests. When one child feels that the other is getting more importance probably because of being more intellectual or gifted,  he/she may just attract the parent’s attention by picking up fights.

When there is no family time, a fight occurs. Even parents’ stress is also an important contributing factor. Hunger or boredom of children may initiate fights. Children with special needs may demand more attention and time of the parents leading to the feeling of being left over by the other one. The clothes or the toys of the elders sibling are usually  passed on to the younger one which is also a contributing factor as it happens in most of the households.

The children may show signs of anger like yelling, throwing or breaking things / lying, hiding, name calling and arguing, fighting or voicing feelings of envy. Since sibling rivalry usually starts after second baby’s arrival, adequate preparation helps. While the mother is pregnant, the elder one should be involved in all activities and preparations of the younger one like buying toys, clothes, toys, arranging the cupboard, decoration, etc.

The management of this rivalry may be difficult, but is not impossible. Let the child be himself or herself and express his or her emotions. There should be no physical punishment whatsoever. A good amount of family time spent together in playing games or having family trips often helps. No two children should be ever compared. Rather, they should be encouraged to do and enjoy things together like playing in the rain, doing pillow fights, etc. They should be asked to make greetings cards together for family members birthdays or special days.

Parents can try to spend ‘one on one’ kid time and talk about the negatives and positives of other sibling too.


It is best for the parents not to get involved unless they need to intervene to prevent physical injury.

Parents interference may become habitual for the children and maybe looked upon as rescue.

Be calm and in control. Try to separate out the siblings giving them space of their own. Let them be!

Avoid favouring. Do not play blame game. You will realize that children will be together after a while.

Children learn to manage conflict and resolve differences.

A ‘green to red’ light strategy may be followed for management of sibling rivalry.
  • Green – minor name calling, Parents  should try to stay out.
  • Yellow – nasty name calling, Parents have to listen each child’s viewpoint.
  • Orange – when fights become serious or dangerous, Parents need to firmly stop.
  • Red – when the situation gets out of control or dangerous, psychological help needed.

If we try to look at the positives, sibling rivalry teaches some values, feelings of compromise,  sharing, negotiation,  etc. which help the children in the long run.

Interestingly, sibling rivalry is not just a trait of homo sapiens, but also seen in other species. A black eagle mother lays two eggs,  the first hatched egg pecks the younger one, also the blue-footed booby bird. Even literature has examples of sibling rivalry, like three rivalrous daughters of Shakespeare and the story of Cain & Able.

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