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Expert on Toddler Care

How to tackle sibling rivalry?

Scenario 1:

Shivani rushes into the bedroom on hearing her younger one crying. She gives an angry stare to the older one. He says with a smirk,” I didn’t hit him! I was just playing with him.”


Scenario 2:

Neha during a tea party with other moms,” I’m so lucky my kids really love each other during those brief moments when they’re not trying to beat the crap out of each other. ”


Any of the above sounds familiar? It seems strange that whenever the word sibling is uttered, the word rivalry seems sure to follow. Sibling rivalry is one of the most annoying thing about having children and therefore an important chapter in the book of parenting. Irrespective of whether the rivalry means a sign of long term positive or negative relationship, as parents it is important for you to keep the sibling rivalry in check.


Your work starts even before the birth of your younger one. Get the older child acquainted with the new baby by showing the pictures of the baby in mommy’s belly. Allow the older one to feel the baby under the belly, talk to the baby and feel the kicks. Show him the pictures of what he looked like right after the birth, coming home from the hospital and getting his diaper changed. Walking the older one through his baby events will prepare him for a replay of his brother or sister.


The idea of sharing his parents, his priced possessions, with the newborn can really annoy and upset the older child. While you are required to give your 200 percent to your newborn in the initial stages, make sure your older child isn’t neglected. If possible, start most days with “special time” with your toddler. Starting the day with twenty minutes of intensive care with your toddler can ward off angry feelings in the toddler toward the new baby and is a good investment in the rest of the day.


Making your elder sibling feel responsible for his younger brother or sister is a good way of tackling the power struggle with them. Give the older child some supervised responsibility for the younger one. This will motivate the elder one to learn to be more caring and nurturing. Sensing this care, your younger child will start respecting his elder sibling and show more love towards him.


Here are some additional tips for you:


  • You do not need to feel upset or inadequate if your children are always fighting. Sibling rivalry is a natural process of growing up and it is good for them to fight, make up and fight again.
  • Only interfere in arguments when they get violent. Otherwise, do not be too eager to step in. They learn confidence and self-reliance if they can fight their own battles and sort out their own mess. In any case, you will never be there for them forever.
  • Do not try to be a judge or referee. Taking sides is a no-win situation. You will always be accused of favouritism. If you need to make a decision, hear both sides out, and be objective and consistent. The decision should be brief and precise.
  • The "no-violence" rule must be made a hard and fast one, which all children in the home must abide by.
  • Labelling, whether positive or negative, adds unnecessary pressure on the children. Likewise, do not live your unfulfilled dreams through your children. They should be encouraged to develop according to their talents and ability.
  • Never make comparisons between the children. Sometimes parents also forget and make comparisons between children and outsiders e.g. classmates, neighbours and cousins. Comparisons, especially when they are negative, will heighten the intensity of sibling rivalry.
  • Anticipate trouble spots and pick up the "danger signs" early.
  • Protect your children against one another when they get physically violent. Sometimes, it is the older sibling who requires your protection more than the younger one. Very often, the older sibling is expected to give in to the younger sibling without considering the fact that the older child is also one who has his own needs too.
  • Try behaviour modification and reward system. Good behaviours should be highlighted and praised. But when one child misbehaves, do not hesitate to remove the reward.
  • Ensure that each child has his own private space where he can be alone and where he can keep his toys, books etc. Ensure that your other children respect this private space.

The battle between brothers and sisters is perfectly normal in family relationships. As parents, you do not have to eliminate sibling rivalry. Rather, it can be constructive if it is managed well. Being parents means you play many roles – teacher, referee, coach, psychologist, and a friend. While playing all these roles, constant communications with your children can help them be life-long friends.

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