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How can I deal with sibling rivalry?

My children like fighting each other! How do I deal with this sibling rivalry?                                    Dinah, Kigali

My children like fighting each other! How do I deal with this sibling rivalry?                                   

Dinah, Kigali


Dear Dinah


Where there is more than one child, there will occasionally be battles. That’s normal. Each child is a unique individual, and just because they’re related doesn’t mean they will always get along. But parents can take steps to help keep sibling rivalry to a minimum:


Set aside time to spend with each child individually, so they don’t feel like they’re always competing for your attention. Don’t play favorites.

Be sure each child has personal time and space of his or her own. Everybody needs privacy!

Work with your children to set ground rules — like no tattling, hitting, or name-calling, no fighting in the car (or the car pulls over until it stops), and no taking someone else’s property without permission.

Jump in if there’s physical violence or other dangerous escalation, but otherwise, try not to intervene in your kids’ fights. Instead, talk with them when they’re calm about how they can compromise, share toys, take turns, and respect each other — then give them a chance to use those skills rather than relying on you as referee.

Head off fights by observing the kinds of situations that start them and avoiding those situations. Do your kids always argue over who does the dishes? Then set up a chore chart so it’s clear who does what job when.

Show them good conflict resolution skills. How do you resolve disagreements with your spouse or other family members? If you handle them calmly and respectfully, children will learn from that behaviour.

Give your kids materials that help them think about and talk about sibling rivalry, like the sibling rivalry pages at PBS Kids. 

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