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Home / Parenting

How do I reduce the rivalry between my children?

 Will they ever stop fighting and get on well as adults? (Image: Shutterstock)

Hi Chris,                                                                                                                                                              

My husband and I have three children, and I love them dearly. But they fight like cats and dogs, and always seem to know exactly how to wind each other up!

Sometimes I suppose they’re just teasing each other, but there also seems to be a lot of real aggression. They’ve been scrapping since they were toddlers, and I wonder if they’ll ever stop. Will they get on well as adults?

I always imagined that my children would be best friends, but then both my husband and I were only children, so what do we know?

Is there some way I can encourage them to get along better together? And maybe even be friends, at least as they grow older?

Sibling Rivalry

Chris Hart says,

Hi Sibling Rivalry!

Siblings almost always fight, partly because they’re in competition for your attention, food, toys, you name it.

And there’s only so much you can do, because sibling relationships mostly depend on the children themselves.

But the family environment does play a role, and that’s something you can think about.

Sibling relationships are generally better in more organised families, for example, and where their parents are happy together, and have good relationships with their children.

Everything starts, of course, with the arrival of the second baby. So parents can reduce rivalry by regularly spending time with their older children, so they don’t feel they have to constantly compete for parental attention.

Parents should also try to maintain their older children’s routines, as babies are born, and encourage them to help with looking after the younger ones.

Siblings always watch the way their parents treat them, so try to treat all your kids fairly. You’ll never completely succeed of course, so just consciously attempt to show your kids similar levels of affection, praise, and discipline.

Help your kids to manage irritations better, so that when one sibling pushes another’s buttons, as only siblings can, their response won’t be as intense.

Many children pick a fight just to get your attention, so show them better ways to get you to notice them, and make sure you do give them your attention when they use them!

Limit your involvement, if you see them sorting things out themselves, and if you do need to intervene play a ‘coaching’ role. Encouraging them to communicate their point of view calmly to one another.

You’re also a role model, so if your children see you and your spouse being polite and supportive towards one another, they’ll at least try to do the same.

Although it may not always feel like it, sibling relationships can be constructive, preparing your children for the complexities of adult relationships.

So your children will probably get on well together as grownups, despite their childhood squabbles. But the rivalry will always be there, so that at family gatherings, you’ll notice your adult children still watching to see whether you’re sharing out the food properly!

All the best,

Chris

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