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A parent’s guide to sibling rivalry

Team StoryWeavers|February 17, 2022, 14:11 IST|

“Siblings who say that they never fight are most definitely hiding something”

All of us who have siblings know that not arguing with each other is never an option. Sibling relationships are one of the most beloved relationships in our lives. Previously, we have spoken a great deal about siblings and how to foster a sibling relationship

Siblings do quarrel now and then. However, parents should realise whenever an intervention is needed, especially  when the home environment gets affected by bickering siblings. Today, we will explore the concept of sibling rivalry and how parents can tackle situations when things go out of hand. 

We will cover:

  • What do parents need to know about sibling rivalry?
  • House rules that can stop the bickering among siblings

What do parents need to know about sibling rivalry?

A book by Michele Borba, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, published in 2009 mentions a few effective parenting tips to deal with sibling rivalry. Michele Borba, Ed.D., is the recipient of the National Educator Award. She is also widely recognised for her practical and solution-oriented approach and tips. Here are some situations that will help parents understand when intervention is needed:

  • Escalating arguments: If parents feel like they cannot leave the children together, even for a short period of time, due to name-calling, yelling, etc, then it could be a sign of sibling rivalry that needs immediate parental attention. 
  • Increased animosity: It is a sign of a troubled relationship when siblings are destroying each other’s possessions such as toys, books, etc. 
  • Deteriorating emotional well-being: If one sibling feels that the other sibling is favoured more in the family or parents start to feel the changes in one of the sibling’s self-esteem and a sense of belongingness, then it is time for parents to get involved. 
  • Family disharmony: When the conflict and arguments seem to affect the entire family dynamics and the relationships start getting strained, then it is surely a sign of something going wrong. 

House rules that can stop bickering among siblings

The aforementioned book by Michele Borba, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, also lists a few tips for parents that can potentially stop bickering among children. The key to these house rules is that they need to be enforced consistently by parents. They are as follows: 

  • No yelling. Everyone at home must speak in an indoor-friendly voice. ‘Time-out’ signs must be used when the talk gets heated and there is a possibility that someone might raise their volume. It will act as a warning sign and is likely to stop the trouble from brewing. 
  • Ask first. Enforcing a rule that the permission of the owner must be taken before taking or using anything is likely to put a stop to many of the unnecessary arguments later. This is often a major cause of sibling bickering.
  • No hurtful behaviour. Parents need to establish that hurtful behaviours will not be tolerated and will result in the appropriate consequences as discussed beforehand. Parents should set the consequences well in advance for them to be effective as a deterrent. 
  • No tattling. This one is important for younger children. This will help parents to limit a feeling of resentment that siblings have towards each other. You could say something like – “Unless you are here to tell me something that will stop your sibling from getting physically hurt or out of trouble, I prefer not to hear it”. 
  • No involvement without evidence. This one is for parents. They should only give their judgement if they themselves saw or heard what happened, except in rare cases when there is a chance that someone might get physically hurt. Do ensure that you do not get involved if there is no evidence. The reason is that it keeps you neutral. In other cases, you can ask children to use ‘rock, paper, scissors’ to sort out their issues.

Having said this, do not have unrealistic expectations from your children. They are siblings and will get into massive fights and arguments sporadically. They do not need to get along every waking minute of their existence. However, they need not go to the extremes, either. Parents need to help their children find a balance and create an environment where they know how to resolve their differences on their own. 

Did you find this article helpful? Did you argue with your sibling when you were growing up? How did your parents handle the situation? How do you tackle this now? Let us know in the comments below. 

Reference:

Borba, M. (2009). The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. Germany: Wiley.

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About the Author


“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She wholeheartedly believes in the quote by Arthur Rubinstein that says – “if you love life, life will love you back”. She is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grades 2 & 3, as a part of the Teach For India Fellowship. These little girls have a special place in her heart, and when she writes for children, she writes for them!

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