Managing Sibling Rivalry and Conflicts

file_103613_0_sibling_rivalrySibling rivalry and conflicts between family members can turn your home into a battlefield!

The more frequently this conflict occurs and the more it builds, the more frustrated you become.  Suddenly the idyllic home environment you had planned seems to be a dream.   You need some strategies and sound advice of ways to interrupt the war and restore peace again.


You can happily count yourself among friends in the challenging world of parenting.  Children today are far more worldly and exposed to more media and outside influences.  Take time to get to know your child on a personal level and let them see you as a fair player in their quest to learn about the world around them. Home is going to be the starting point in their journey through life.  It is not always easy in the heat of the moment to be rational, but try to take a step back and view the situation objectively. Ask yourself what is the real issue? What is the heart of the matter?  An argument over a toy may not be about the toy but more importantly about getting your attention.  Many children learn over time that  their acting out behaviours are far more effective in getting your attention and engagement than more desirable behaviours  Look for the triggers and factors that might be contributing to the  conflict, such as tiredness, boredom, and try not to get caught up in the details of the conflict if they minor and rather focus on de-escalating the situation  and moving on.



Parents are always going to find themselves faced with conflict and sibling rivalry amongst their children so it is important to have your alliances in place to help you cope when times get tough. Everyone needs to be part of the plan. Its important for parents to be in agreement with each other and playing fair in all situations. Also, siblings need to know the ground rules and be part of conflict management. Be aware that the addition of a new sibling to the family has a way of upsetting your alliances!

All of this takes hard work but a few general tips can help:

  • Give 1:1 quality time to each child
  • Be a good listener
  • Praise often to reinforce the behaviours you want to see more of
  • Teach sharing, cooperation and understanding of everyone’s point of view
  • Avoid labelling children – Naughty Nick will soon live up to his reputation!

Usually one of the most difficult conflicts to arbitrate is about learning how to share time and space. The conflict often begins over something small, such as whose turn is it to sit in a special seat, open the gate or answer the phone? You don’t have to treat every child exactly the same every day. To help decide on a daily basis who gets to be first, you could choose an odd or even numbered day for each child’s special turn. On a particular child’s day everything that is perceived as a special treat or turn is owed to the child whose number it is. For younger children, you might need to break each day into smaller segments when each child gets their turn. Three or more children ….that’s more complicated! What about a badge dedicated to No 1 …. King/queen for the day. Everyone gets a turn to wear the badge or start a royal chart to keep a record. Aim for a balanced week and keep communication open.



Parents need to be like the A-team, famous for getting a plan together!

These practical ideas may not work for everyone but take one step at a time and choose the idea you think could help your family the most.

  • Make a point of having dinner together at the table. It’s a great time to appreciate both food and family. Listen to each other talk about their day. Appreciate one another by saying what you love about different family members.
  • Talk about feelings – “good” (comfortable) and “bad” (uncomfortable) feelings. There are great children’s books that have stories to help understand the feelings of others. Use your evening story time to listen to the story and go to bed feeling good about emotions.
  • Plan family activities together. Each family member gets a turn to plan what they want to do. The planned event may be a dolly’s tea party, game of golf or fishing trip. Whatever the outing involves it is a family event and everyone takes part!
  • Teach your children about empathy. ‘Do as you would be done by!’ Ask your children how it feels when someone hurts you.
  • Try not to have “NO” responses all the time. Sometimes you can replace an outright “no” with a “yes” just by adding a positive instruction. Eg. “Can I have a snack?” – ‘Yes, after you have eaten your supper.’
  • Have a reconciliation plan. If one child has hurt the other let the children judge the severity of the hurt. Plan a way to do something to make up to the child who was hurt. Unkind behaviour leads to an act of kindness in return.

Finally have a goal in mind

What a joy it will be to see your family managing their conflicts and being able to value one another as siblings and friends. Talk about how friends may come and go but family is forever. Getting that right is a real goal to strive for. Your children will be thankful that you wanted them to end the war and win the peace prize for the family.

For more tips in managing sibling rivalry, you can visit changes psychology