How to Resolve Sibling Rivalry Part 1

By Joseph Sacks, LCSW

Do there seem to be endless battles in your house? Are you constantly asked to be the judge of sibling squabbles? Are both children jealous of each other and competing for your attention?

How to resolve sibling rivalry and conflict can be very challenging,

but following a few simple tips can help you find its source and develop practical solutions.

Your Attitude as a Parent Affects Your Children

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry - Tribeca Play Therapy - NY, NY

Sometimes, conflict is caused by subtle attitudes or behaviors of the parents. They may unknowingly tend to favor one child over the other in various ways, and the children instantly pick up on it. One child may feel that the parent is taking the other one’s side more often, which can cause resentment and hatred of the favored child. As negative thoughts and emotions build, conflict ensues in the form of jealousy, shouting and fighting. As parents, we need to be very aware of exactly whose side we’re taking and when. How can we find this out? By observing our children and asking, “Do you feel I always take your brother/sister’s side?” You might be surprised how helpful it can be to listen to our children’s feelings when dealing with sibling rivalry. Then, we need to go out of our way to take the other one’s side more often so he or she feels equally loved and valued.

How to resolve sibling rivalry that comes from unavoidable circumstances

Often, due to circumstance beyond our control, we may feel differently towards each sibling. Let’s say when one child was born, you or your partner were under a lot of job stress and were unable to devote enough time and emotional energy to that child. As a result, you may not have formed quite as strong a bond with that child and will automatically treat him or her differently than a child that was born in a time of less stress. Our children recognize when one is being favored, and we need to be aware of these things and consciously adjust our attitudes. We must even things out by going out of our way to give extra attention and develop the bond with the one who needs it.

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry - Tribeca Play Therapy - NY, NY

How To Resolve Sibling Rivalry Due To Differences In Age

Some people say that the older child automatically resents the younger child and will be jealous of him or her for taking away the parents’ love and attention. While age can cause jealousy or conflict, it does not need to be this way. It is not automatic. You can prevent it. The older child resents the younger one only if that older one's needs are not being fulfilled. The birth of a younger sibling is no reason to neglect the needs of the older child in any way. He or she must continue to receive all of the love and attention he or she needs despite the presence of a new baby. If mom is too overwhelmed because of the new baby, then dad has to make up for it by going out of his way to give extra attention to the firstborn. If dad can’t do it then grandma, aunt, babysitter or nanny have to, but the child’s emotional needs must be fulfilled at all costs!

The truth is that, if raised properly, siblings are nothing but a happiness! If you meet your older child’s need for love and attention, he or she will welcome the new member of the family with open arms.  Unfortunately, it may be that a particular child was not getting his or her needs met even before the baby was born. As a result, he or she will surely resent the newcomer for taking away even more of his or her precious little attention. Therefore, we must be exceedingly careful to fulfill all of our children’s needs in a generous fashion. Parenting is not easy, but the peace gained when your children get along is well worth the effort. 

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry - Tribeca Play Therapy - NY, NY

Please keep in mind that the above recommendations represent a parenting ideal when dealing with sibling rivalry, and I do not expect anyone to fulfill them perfectly. Therefore, have patience with your parenting, and try to implement new techniques gradually. 

Click here to see How to deal with sibling rivalry, part 2, dealing with sibling jealousy.

You may find other parenting tips, tricks and information in the rest of my informative blog, or feel free to download one of my interesting free reports. If you have a child who is dealing with sibling rivalry, and would like guidance or treatment from a child psychotherapist in lower Manhattan, you may give me a call for a free 15-minute consultation at 646-681-1707. I look forward to speaking with you!

Click here for more information about Parenting Counseling