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July 19, 2014
by Christie Hunter

Summer Coming: Kids Out of School - How to Avoid Sibling Rivalry?

July 19, 2014 04:55 by Christie Hunter  [About the Author]

Are you tired of the loud arguments and fights caused by sibling rivalry? You are not alone, because many families face the same problem where there is more than one child.

Just because parents love their children unconditionally does not necessarily mean that siblings also share the same level of affection. Kids fighting with one another can become a serious domestic problem when one child dominates or bullies the other persistently. While it seems like an ordinary everyday scenario, the situation can become complicated if not addressed in early stages. You can do several things, especially now when the summer is approaching and your kids will be spending much more time at home – with each other.

How Sibling Rivalry Affects your Child

When children are at war rather than playing, it is clear that they have a conflict of interest and are unable to get along with one another. Fighting is like a game where one opponent loses because of some weakness and the other wins. An argument can start with because of any reason, but in turns into a fight because of sibling rivalry. The one who is the victim may develop early childhood psychological problems such as lack of confidence, inferiority complex, low self-esteem, and even depression. Normally, the child ends up believing that he gets less loved by his parents and the dominant sister or brother is more privileged. Sibling relationships can have a significant impact on the development of a child’s personality (Sanders and Campling, 2004).

Birth Order and Sibling Rivalry

Although all social scientists agree that structural parameters of siblings (including, age gap, birth order, and size) have an impact on a child’s personality traits, the effects of birth order are more profound than other factors (Steelman, Powell, Werum and Carter, 2002). This component of sibling matrix needs special attention from parents, as their behavior towards each child can considerably reduce its effects.

It is commonly observed that parents are more emotionally close to either the first child or the last one in terms of birth order. Although this behavior is natural and mostly unconscious, certain conscious efforts can help resolve the problem.

Never Judge a Book by its Cover

Mostly parents intervene in the fight when one kid has either already reacted to the action or was about to respond back. Under such a scenario, do not make a judgment and scold one kid without knowing what actually happened and who started the argument. When kids come up to you to resolve the matter, do not shun them away – no matter how busy or tired you are, stay calm and listen (Cress and Peterson, 2012). Seeing them blame one another might frustrate you and disappoint you, but do not be overwhelmed by the situation – it is your time to make the difference. Do not try to be the referee unless you know it wasn’t a case of bullying. As you cannot exactly judge who is right and who is wrong, simply assign appropriate punishments to both of them so that they may at least once think about the consequences before envying each other.

Protecting Their Territory and Position

Researchers identified territory protection as another reason of sibling jealousy and rivalry. From where they sit to their toys, they will fight over anything that is important to them. Not to mention, they also observe the behavior of parents with other siblings. First born generally display extreme jealousy towards the new baby as it disrupts the attention that he/she was getting previously (Pantley, 2005).

Handling Jealousy

Jealousy is one aspect of sibling rivalry that should be downplayed on the surface and dealt with indirectly. Talk to the envious child in privacy so that this weakness is not revealed to the other kid. Always acknowledge your children’s good characteristics to boost his/her confidence. Avoid making critical sibling evaluations and criticism for it fuels competition, jealousy, and rivalry (Stephens, 2007).

Final Word

Restoring peace in your home requires dedication, discipline, kindness, and most of all patience. Set clear and strict rules as to how siblings are supposed to treat each other. The overreaching philosophy of “families who eat together – stay together” might work, as it is the perfect time to discuss personal matters. Remember that in the end, you will be setting the role model for your children. They won’t always act like you do, but your practices and behavior will be engraved somewhere deep inside their personality. Make sure your house is filled with nurturance, kindness, love, and positive regard for everyone.


Sanders, R. and Campling, J. (2004). Sibling relationships. 1st ed. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Steelman, L., Powell, B., Werum, R. and Carter, S. (2002). Reconsidering the effects of sibling configuration: Recent advances and challenges. Annual Review of Sociology, 28(1), pp.243--269.

Pantley, E. (2005). The no-cry sleep solution. 1st ed. Chicago: McGraw-Hill.

Stephens, K. (2007). Sibling Rivalry: Ways to Help Children Manage It.

Cress, C. and Peterson, K. (2012). Mom Loves You Best. 1st ed. New York: New Horizon Press.

About the Author

Christie Hunter

Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at -

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