Raising Siblings without Rivalry
Is it Possible?

So can I really raise siblings without rivalry? No. But, don't lose hope, hang in there, because there is some good news.

In fact, there will always be rivalry between siblings because every human being is an individual with unique needs and personalities. It is natural to go through sibling rivalry while growing up because it’s the learning process for them.

Parent's job is to teach his children how to solve these problems and how to adjust accordingly in life. If job is done right - sibling rivalry can even help their social and emotional development.

In this article:

Siblings Without Rivalry

What is Sibling Rivalry?

Sibling Rivalry - is a disagreement between brothers and sisters. It comes in different forms: jealousy, competition, fighting, teasing and many many more.

This is how sibling rivalry has been in our house lately between a 5 year old and a 2 year old.

“Why is he sleeping with you?

I want to be in the carrier too...

He pulled my hair...

He broke my castle...

I wish my brother wasn’t born...

I don’t like my brother anymore...

He just bit me again!!!


Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

Causes of Sibling Rivalries

Before your start applying different methods to stop sibling rivalry, you need to know what causes it. It's the key to building a successful sibling relationship.

There are many things that can influence and cause sibling rivalry. The most common ones are:

  • jealousy over parents, toys, other belongings, etc.
  • birth order
  • child’s personality
  • insecure attachments with parents

Sometimes the fight is not about THE toy - there is something else hiding under that.

  • Are they tired or overwhelmed?
  • Are they hungry?
  • Are they just trying to get your attention?
  • Did one of the siblings got more attention due to his birthday or some accomplishments in school?

It is important to read your children’s cues to understand the causes of sibling rivalries. The sooner you see them, the better you will be able to apply some methods to prevent or stop their disagreements.

what is sibling rivalry

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

14 Tips To Prevent
Sibling Rivalry


So now when you know what sibling rivalry is and what are the reasons of it, it is time to stop it.

Wait. Did you try preventing it first? Trust me, it is worth a shot.

#1 Tip. Secure Attachments.

It all begins during infancy. When you create secure attachments with your children it affects their lives in many ways including the sibling rivalry.

Secure attachment means that a child knows that you love him and you are there for him anytime no matter what, even when the new baby comes to the family.

Click here to read about some tips on creating a secure infant attachment.

#2 Tip. Early Sibling Bonds.

Make siblings bond before birth. New baby’s arrival in the family is a joy, but it's a bigger stress for an older child. He is no longer the baby of the family, his parents kiss and hug another baby too. There is so much things going on in older child’s head. As parents start bonding with the unborn child, a sibling should too:

  • talk to him about the baby every day. Show him images on how is he growing, let him touch when the baby is moving
  • big brother/sister books are very helpful.
  • involve older child into baby’s birth day as much as possible.

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

#3 Tip. Positive Discipline

Imply Positive Discipline techniques.  Kids follow you and absorb everything you do like sponges. Be a good example, respect them and treat them the way you want to be treated.

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

#4 Tip. Individual Time with each Sibling.

Spend some one-on-one time with each sibling individually. As much as you need date nights with your partner once in awhile, kids need that undivided attention and love too. Pick their favorite activity and do it as often as you can.

Sibling relationship

When I ask my daughter what was the best memory of the week she always mentions our date mornings when we go to the bookstore to read books and have some tea.

Just me and her.

stopping sibling rivalry

#5 Tip. Let Them Play

When siblings are playing together nicely - DON’T interrupt.

  • Cancel play dates, delay meal times (reasonably), sit back and enjoy their bond and the peace.
  • After the play, compliment their specific actions that contributed to a successful play time.
  • Often remind them the times they were playing nice:

"Remember how you guys build that tall tower out of shoe boxes? That was super fun, wasn't it?"

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

6. Don’t compare.

Comparing (“Why can’t you be responsible as your sister”) or putting labels ("he is the smart one and she is the pretty one") on children can do some heavy emotional damage for them.

Not only it will affect them negatively, it will push them further away and will cause more jealousy and disagreements between siblings.

My dad always referred to my brother as a "sporty" one. As a result I lost any kind of encouragement and desire to do sports and be athletic because I thought I would never be as good as my brother.

Sibling rivalry

#7 Tip. Rules and Boundaries.

Set some rules and boundaries on how siblings have to treat each other: no hitting, no teasing, knocking before coming into sibling’s room.

It would be more effective if you would set those boundaries together with your children. Have a family meeting and discuss what bothers them most. Right them down and hang the list of the rules on the house. Boundaries can change as children grow.

Right now, in our house we have “no hitting and no biting” rule. A 2 year old is in the biting and hitting stage. My goal for the next few months was to teach our 5 year old not to hit or bite back when she gets hurt from her little brother.

Instead, we both try to learn little man's cues and moods so we can predict the hits and the bites. My daughter got pretty good at it. She starts running from her little brother, when he has his open mouth, ready to bite. He chases her as it becomes a fun game and they both forget that they wanted to hurt each other.

* Update

Today he bit her badly. She cried a lot. But she didn't yell at him or hit him. Later, when  I asked her, what was she thinking when he bit her, she said:

"He is just little"...

I think we overachieved our yearly goal!

** Update

It's been 2 weeks now and we haven't had a bite! Yayyy!

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

#8 Tip. Team up.

Always encourage siblings to be a team. Even if they loose - it won't be against each other. Avoid competition games between siblings:

“who will eat broccoli faster”, instead - “Let’s race - who will eat the broccoli faster - you guys or - me and daddy”.

#9 Tip. Give Space.

Children are individuals, they need their own space sometimes as you and your partner need some alone time away from each other too. Let them spend some time in separate spaces so they will miss each other and will treat each other better afterwards.

#10 Tip. Likes and dislikes.

Try to find their common interests. Involve them into those activities often. No common interest? No problem. Try to find the same things they don’t like. This should not be very hard.

stopping sibling rivalry

Episode from our weekly "cultural nights". We were learning about India

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

#12 Tip. Appreciate.

Practice appreciation on daily basis in your family. Make it habit. Later, it will become natural.

At the end of the day when we sit down for a family time, we talk about good or bad things that happened to everyone during the day. No matter what the day has brought to us - each of us have to find one positive thing to appreciate.

“I appreciate that daddy took you for a hike today”

“I appreciate that mommy let me use her clothes for my dress-up play”

“I appreciate that my little brother hugged me without a reason”

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

#12 Tip. Be an Example.

Children watch you. Even when you think they don’t pay attention. They absorb how you interact with others, how you deal with the upsetting situation, what do you do when someone cuts you off in traffic etc.

Kids learn from you how to deal with stressful situations. Make sure to show a good example as much as possible. Don’t forget - it’s ok to have negative feelings, it’s ok to be upset, but what matters - is how you deal with it.

Pay attention how do you react when:

  • you get upset in traffic
  • someone is rude to you or insults you
  • telemarketer calls during dinner time

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

#13 Tip. Environment.

Setting the proper home environment can save you a lot of sibling rivalry. Think of spaces where your children could get along easier and with less fights. When organizing those spaces keep in mind their age.

Make sure to have safe spaces for older ones so the little siblings won’t come and destroy everything.

#14 Tip. Feelings.

Empathy, empathy, empathy. Teach it, show it, ask for it. You can find great tips here how to teach empathy to kids.

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

Stopping Sibling Rivalry
When you are in the middle of a battle field

You know the reasons of sibling rivalry. You have tried to prevent sibling rivalry. The 3rd step is to stop it. How to have siblings without rivalry at home?

  • find the problem;
  • look for options how to solve the problem;
  • name pros and cons of every option;
  • choose most appropriate option and stick with it.

#1 Tip. Don't intervene.

Stay away from their conflicts as long as possible. Give the chance to work things out on their own first. Use your judgment and decide when/if you need to jump in.

Study published in Child Development Journal suggests that parents should step back and let siblings figure their disagreements out by themselves which should help them avoid some emotional damage lasting for many years.

I know parents mean only well when they intervene sibling rivalries, but according to psychologists - it can be harmful. They suggest to introduce and set some rules, boundaries between siblings to keep everything under control.

This is effective if you set the rules BEFORE the rivalries.

Keep in mind, that younger siblings will need your guidance on how to solve those arguments.

#2 Tip. Listen.

2 children - 2 different stories. 5 children - 5 different stories. Listen to every one of them till the end.  Children feel much better when they can "let everything out". Teach the kids to respect and don't interrupt when one is speaking. 

Before they start stating each side of story remind them to say what has happened versus "My sister is not nice to me". Ask siblings to find specific actions that made them upset.

#3 Tip. Empathize.

sibling rivalry

#4. The sides.

Sometimes it can be very hard to resist, but don't take sides. No matter what. By doing that, you may harm both children: the bully, who was just the guilty one - will feel less of himself and the victim, who was just rescued - may carry the victim attitude later on.

After listening to their stories:

  • remind them of the family rules, keeping the positive note. Instead of saying: "don't hit your brother". Try - "Solve your disagreements with words. Talk it out. Hitting, spitting, biting is not allowed."
  • encourage them to look for a solution to the problem.

#5 Tip. Feelings.

Sibling rivalry involves a lot of feelings. Usually - negative ones. And that's OK. But a parent should help them learn how to properly express those feelings.

Remind them that they can be mad or upset at their siblings  as long as they do it respectfully. 

"I am mad at my brother, because he broke my toy. I don't want to play with him anymore."

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

#6. Tip. Humor.

Humor or turning bad things into fun is one of my main parenting tools, because it works for our family quite well. Even during sibling rivalries.

However, note that humor is not an answer to all the problems siblings will have. Usually, it only helps with smaller disagreements.

- Mooooommy, he broke my crayons again. All of them. I just want to hit him!!!"

I give them a minute to see if they gonna solve their issues my themselves.

But since her brother is too little, it is kind of hard to talk it out at this point.

I remind the little one that he should play with his crayons instead of his sisters.

To smooth the situation

we make a craft of

melted crayons, which

my daughter later loved

it so much she ended

up thanking her brother

for breaking her


#7. Tip. Negotiation.

Negotiation is a skill they will treasure through the life. The sooner children learn it - the better. Be creative and teach them to find a solution to a problem so everybody benefits.

Sharing problem? - tell them to take turns.

Both siblings want to open the package from grandmother? - tell them to choose who wants to open and who wants to take the first present from the box.

Disagreeing on whose game to play first? - suggest them to play his game  first, but her game little longer.

Encourage children to find these kind of win-win solutions every day. Later on leave up to them to brainstorm and negotiate the deal.

After the while you will be surprised of your little business associates.

My daughter learned the negotiation skill pretty well, even with a little brother who doesn't talk yet.

If he takes one of her dolls and starts banging their heads on the wall, she runs to find his favorite toy of the day and gives it to him.

She realized this was much better idea than snatching the doll out of his hands, making him cry and disturbing the peace in the house.

Back To Top

of Siblings Without Rivalry

Siblings Without Rivalry

by Elaine Mazlish, Adele Faber

Book Review

When talking about siblings without rivalry I have to mention this book: Siblings without Rivalry, by Elaine Mazlish and Adele Faber.

Here some of the notes that I wrote down when I was reading this book.

1. If kids are complaining about each other, repeat back by saying the same thing. It will help kids to better understand their feelings.

2. If one child is hit accidently by another sibling, we should say: "You guys were having so much fun, I am sure you didn't want that to happen." It will sound and put them back on a good relationship track.

3. When the child is mad at his sibling - suggest to draw a picture about his feelings.

4. Love and treat your kids uniquely, not equally.

Back To Top of Siblings Without Rivalry

Please Help out Some desparate Parents with your postive discipline ideas for Sibling Rivalry

Do you have a great story about this? Share it!

Enter Your Title

Like This Page?

Let Google know about it

About Me

Contact Me