Practical Tips for Parents in Managing Sibling Rivalry

Practical Tips for Parents in Managing Sibling Rivalry

5 May 2022 • Words by Nanette Botha 2 mins

There are many issues that only some parents find challenging – toilet training, getting a child to sleep through the night or perhaps finding the right school for your child. However, if there is one thing that every single parent out there struggles with at times, it must be sibling rivalry!

Perhaps most of us had that vision when we were expecting our second child, of two kids doing everything together, having adventures, being mischievous, and looking out for one another wherever they go…together. It probably wasn’t too long after the second child came into the family that this vision seemed to perhaps be a little farfetched. We can help our children change that, though. We can do this by supporting them in having positive interactions with their siblings and therefore building positive relationships in the home.

Here are three tips to help you manage sibling rivalry in your home:

Ensure your children have enough alone time

Some children need more time on their own than others to refuel their energy levels or to help them stay regulated. If a child does not have sufficient time on their own, they will find it challenging to cope while interacting with others.

Monitor the type of interaction between siblings and make sure they are prepared

You know your children best. If you know that one child is prone to taking control over every game or activity, changing the rules, and expecting siblings to often follow the one’s lead, there is bound to be rivalry. If you feel that interaction between your children is particularly difficult, facilitating sibling interaction might be a good idea. You can do this by scheduling fixed times or activities that siblings can do together. Ensure that the experience stays positive by keeping these sessions short and involving your children’s interests in the activities. You can also prepare your children so that they know what to expect. This will help them be prepared and stay regulated as they will be aware of what to expect during the interaction with their sibling(s) and when it will be over.

Provide sensory input before, during, and after sibling interaction

If a child’s sensory needs are met, they find it easier to cope and be regulated. If you know that sibling interaction is hard for your child(ren), try to give them access to the necessary sensory input throughout their day. This is especially important during activities (or interactions) that they find challenging. Firm, but gentle arm, hand, or foot squeezes, back or shoulder massages, jumping on a trampoline and even toys to squeeze and/or pull are wonderful types of sensory input.

Even if you follow these guidelines and create a “perfect” home environment, there will still be days when your children seem to fight over everything imaginable! Leung & Robson (1991) suggests dealing with sibling rivalry in a humorous manner at times. This could help to take the edge off a heated discussion and reset our focus to make things work again. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Take a moment and pour that cup of tea – tomorrow is a new day. Be assured that sibling rivalry is real in every home at times – even if it does not always seem like it.

Leung, A. K., & Robson, W. L. (1991). Sibling rivalry. Clinical pediatrics, 30(5), 314–317.

Nanette Botha

Educational specialist & mother of 3 young children Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental