Some of the sweetest words in the English language are “Mom” and “Dad,” that is, unless they’re followed by, “he won’t stop hitting me!” or “she’s doing it again!”

You might have had visions of your children playing happily together, but now the constant sibling rivalry and bickering is pushing you to the edge of insanity.

Luckily, we’ve rounded up some of the top tips from parenting experts to help you learn how to decrease the fighting and increase the brotherly (and sisterly) love.

Start preparing for dealing with sibling rivalry early. How you handle the new baby announcement and talk about the upcoming birth matters.

Positive dialogue and added responsibility are great ways to prepare older (potentially) jealous siblings for the change.

If your kids are already bickering, there are strategies you can implement to reduce the number of sibling fights. Read on for some expert parenting tips on dealing with sibling rivalry

Dealing With Sibling Rivalry

1. Start Off Right

Without realizing it, some parents set their kids up to be rivals from the start by making careless jokes about a new sibling ‘invading’ the family. Or by talking about how the new little brother/sister is going to take up all of their time.

This can set older siblings on edge, and make them see the new family member as competition, rather than a friend and playmate. The sibling rivalry has already begun!

Instead, keep conversations about the new baby positive. Start dealing with sibling rivalry before it has a chance to take root.

Related: How To Stop Whining Kids And Save Your Sanity

Revisit your older children’s babyhood via pictures and video to establish a connection with them before the new baby is born. You can use this babyhood reminder to set the stage for what’s to come.

Reassure older kids that you’ll still have time for them. Focus on the fun of being a big brother/big sister.

This helps make the new baby exciting, not threatening, and reduces the chance of sibling conflict.

2. Make Each Child Feel Important

The wise Dr. Sears recommends that parents give older children responsibilities to care for their younger siblings.

In the beginning, you can delegate simple jobs, like picking out clothes or fetching diapers to help them feel involved instead of neglected. This keeps sibling rivalry at bay.

Find as many small responsibilities as you can to keep older children busy. Some additional examples include:

  • Shaking bottles
  • Putting on burp cloths
  • Handing out sanitizer

Assigning jobs early can inspire love and big brother/big sister pride for the new baby, instead of sibling jealousy. It’s a really effective method for dealing with sibling rivalry.

dealing with sibling rivalry
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3. Don’t Compare

Comments like, “She’s getting teeth sooner than you did” or “you slept through the night earlier than this” might sound trivial, but comparison breeds competition!

This can lead to (you guessed it) increased sibling rivalry. It can make the older child feel inferior, and they might act out to get your attention.

Instead, praise each child individually for what they do well without comparing them to the other.

4. Resist Being a Referee

Parenting tip… drop the whistle! When children are a little older, you don’t always need to listen to sibling accusations and intervene.

A mom we spoke to, who is in the middle of raising four boys, has found the best way to discourage fighting is to encourage ownership of the problem. If she always steps in, her kids rely on her to solve disagreements.

Related: Getting Kids To Listen, It’s Possible We Swear!

So instead, whenever the kids fight, they’re put on a time-out together until they can each tell her what misstep they took and what they could have done instead. There is no mention of the other person’s wrongdoing, only their own.

Once this strategy was put in place, the number of sibling fights plummeted. The kids realized that mom was not going to take sides or assign blame, so they quit coming to her.

The kids started solving their problems on their own and recognized what they were doing wrong. They’re also learning valuable conflict resolution skills that will help them in adulthood. 

5. Watch Out for Serious Behavior

It’s important to mention that there are some situations when a parent absolutely needs to interfere. We’re talking about violent behavior.

Dealing with sibling rivalry does not mean condoning aggression. Kids need to know that there is no excuse for getting physical.

Punching and hitting are never okay. There should always be some kind of consequence for this.

Our job as parents is to teach our kids how to solve conflicts. While it’s great to step out of a fight so they can learn to resolve it on their own, if your kids turn physical or verbally abusive when they’re angry, you’ll need to step back in. 

Another situation that requires intervention is bullying. If one of your children has slipped into this role, you’ll need to do some additional digging to discover why he or she is behaving this way.

Usually, there are some underlying emotions of self-doubt that are causing the bullying behavior. You’ll want to address the underlying cause.

Work on building the bullying child’s self-esteem through responsibility and positive reinforcement. You’ll need to set out clear consequences for the bullying behavior, but you don’t want to “take sides”.

If you focus on fostering more love in the bullying child, it tends to decrease the behavior more than negative punishments.

More: Positive Discipline: Parent With Love Not Fear

6. Keep Going!

Nobody ever said parenting was easy, but dealing with daily bickering may be one of the hardest parts of the job. Don’t give up hope if it takes time to correct these behaviors.

Habits are hard to break. Sibling rivalry wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t be solved overnight. Be persistent and consistent!

If you feel like you need additional help, don’t hesitate to look for parenting resources like this book to help guide you. Soon you may find yourself with siblings who are best friends.

Do you have any great tips for dealing with sibling rivalry? Share them in our Parenting Community!


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