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Different Kinds of Sibling Rivalry – How to Resolve the Conflict


Regardless of the amount of love, care, and affection that exists between two siblings, there’s still room for sibling rivalry featuring feelings of jealousy, competition, and fighting.

With more than one child in the house, parents often find themselves playing referee between their kids, which can leave them quite frustrated, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

In most cases, the resentment starts right after the birth of the second child, evolving into constant sibling rivalry, which often lasts throughout childhood.

What Is Sibling Rivalry?

Sibling rivalry is best described as the ongoing conflict that occurs between two or more children raised in the same family. It doesn’t only happen with blood-related siblings but can also take place between foster siblings, step-siblings, and adopted siblings.

It is usually characterized by the following:

    • Constant bickering
    • Verbal fighting
    • Physical fighting
    • Feelings of envy
    • Resentment towards one another
    • Jealousy
    • Constantly competing for parental competition
    • Name-calling
    • Tattling

Different Factors That Lead to Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry may usually stem from the birth of the second or third child and so on, but there are many other factors that influence it, resulting in different kinds of conflicts.

Take a look at the many forms of sibling rivalry and the main causes behind it.

Demanding Attention

Children are always demanding attention from their parents and also try different ways and tactics when they don’t get it. However, this can prove to be extremely challenging for almost every parent, particularly for those who work and have 9-5 jobs.

So, the busier the parents get, the more demanding the children become in an attempt to get their attention.

In the case of the arrival of the second child, for instance, the firstborn finds it very hard to accept that their position or place has been taken by someone else. Naturally, the parents’ attention is likely to be focused more on the former, who has increased needs to be catered to. As a result of this, the first child is likely going to act out, misbehave with their parents and even cry a lot to get the attention they want.

The Need for Individuality

Children generally have a natural inclination to stand out, set themselves apart from others, including their siblings. Each child is trying to compete to define who they are as an individual and the unique skills or talents they possess.  During their journey of discovering who they are, children try to explore their strengths, skills, activities, and interests. In this particular case, they do this to show their parents that they are different from their siblings.

This constant need for individuality often sparks competition between siblings to see who is better at things. For instance, it could be something as basic as who can eat faster, who can race the fastest car, or who can make a better house out of Legos.

In doing so, they also tend to turn to their parents to ask for their opinions and views and what they have to say about it. While this may seem stupid or trivial to us, it matters a great deal to children.

External Factors

There are many external factors that lead to sibling rivalry, one of which is stress.

Stress often plays a key role in sibling competition. This primarily has to do with how some young kids are at quite an edge due to some unsettling or unpleasant events that they are going through in life. This causes them to be extremely irritable, and they develop a habit of lashing out at others. It can either give rise to sibling rivalry or further contribute to the ongoing animosity that already exists between the siblings.

Additionally, stress also finds away among siblings who do not spend time with one another as frequently as one would expect them to. This creates quite a strained and tense relationship between the siblings.

However, the good news here is that this is something where parents can intervene to make things better by encouraging family dinners, outings, and vacations, for instance. It’s an ideal way to ensure that siblings develop healthy relationships by spending more time with each other.

How to Combat Sibling Rivalry and Resolve Conflict?

Sibling rivalry is a common and natural phenomenon in all houses where there is more than one child. Thankfully, there are many ways to resolve conflict and prevent animosity between siblings.

    • First and foremost, parents should refrain from playing favorites because oftentimes, this is one of the biggest reasons behind sibling rivalry.
    • It is important to let every child be who they are without trying to label or pigeonhole them.
    • Teach your kids how to get attention from each other in a more positive manner, such as sharing toys and other belongings and approaching each other nicely to play together.
    • Appreciate every child’s individual talents and successes because each of them has something unique to bring to the table.
    • Never compare one child with the other because it can create feelings of jealousy and hatred between them.
    • Create a set of rules in the house which should include things like no name-calling, hitting, fighting, or damaging each other’s toys and other possessions, for instance. Setting rules is one thing; you also need to ensure that every single kid in the house abides by the very same rules. It’s a good idea to make your kids a part of this process by letting them have a say or an opinion on the kind of rules that are to be made, and also how the rules will be established and enforced.

Final Word

It’s completely normal for sibling rivalry to occur between two siblings where they are also likely to fight from time to time. However, it’s important to take corrective and preventive measures to ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

These measures must also include problem-solving techniques because what you teach them now will ultimately help them in the future as well once they are all grown up.

In case things do get out of hand, you can consult a professional counselor who will be able to teach you how to build fulfilling, happy, and healthy relationships between siblings.