Three Parenting Tips to Decrease Sibling Rivalry

African American sister and brother playing video games

If you grew up with a sibling, chances are you had some form of competition with one another. You wanted to be smarter, better, faster or stronger. It’s normal for the most part, but sometimes the competition can go too far and can lead to mental health struggles for children.

Here are a few parenting tips from Autumn Dunham Neubert, LCSW, lead clinician from The Children’s Center, a program of the Memorial Behavioral Health

  1. Be open. Identify interactions that are positive for your children, such as sharing with one another. Promote communication between siblings; be open to discussion as a form of problem-solving. Try to promote collaboration rather than winning. Teach your children to enjoy the experience of having a close friend and confidant rather than a competitor.
  1. Mediate the situation. As parents, you don’t want to resolve every fight! The key is to help them learn problem-solving skills. Keep your tone even, ask pointed questions and lead children to resolutions. You do not want your child picking future fights to get you on their side. Mediation will enable your children to model this resolution route in the future. Set behavior expectations, and be clear about what behavior is desirable.
  1. Institute supervision. If sibling rivalry has escalated to physical bullying, make sure to institute supervision when kids are alone together. Set family rules that include “hands-off” as a strategy to keeping aggression in check. Separate siblings who can’t get along and distract with “cooling off activities” until everyone is calm. Do this without placing blame so that children have time to understand that they can cope with angry feelings through healthy outlets.

Sibling rivalry can cause children to become anxious or depressed. If you notice a behavior change in your child, it may be time to speak to a metal health professional.  For more information, visit the Memorial Behavioral Health website or call 217-757-7700.