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Sibling Rivalry

What is sibling rivalry? 
Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters.  It is a concern for almost all parents of two or more kids. Problems often start right after the birth of the second child.  Sibling rivalry usually continues throughout childhood and can be very frustrating and stressful to parents.  There are lots of things parents can do to help their kids get along better and work through conflicts in positive ways.  Read on for tips and resources to help you keep the peace at your house.

What’s the up-side of having more than one child?
Most likely your kids’ relationship will eventually develop into a close one. Working things out with siblings gives your children a chance to develop important skills like cooperating and being able to see another person’s point of view.

What causes sibling rivalry?
There are many factors that contribute to sibling rivalry:

Read on to find out more….

How can I help my kids get along better?brothers

The basics:

Be there for each child:

Resolving conflicts:

When to intervene:

Involve your children in setting ground rules.  Ground rules, with clear and consistent consequences for breaking them, can help prevent many squabbles.  Here are a few ideas:

What are family meetings, and how can they help with sibling rivalry?three siblings

If you have older children, call a family meeting every once in a while. A family meeting is a meeting for all family members to work together to make family decisions. . Parents, children, and any others who live in the home and have a stake in decisions affecting the daily life of the family should take part. Choose a time that works for everyone.  Establish a set of rules (for example., no yelling or name-calling, everyone gets a turn) and allow everyone to have a say, even if members don’t agree.

The purpose of the family meeting is to recognize that everyone's opinion makes a difference.  The meeting allows the family to share their opinions, seek understanding, and find resolutions to problems. Family meetings help to build cooperation and responsibility, and make anger and rebellion less likely. Also, it is a time to share love, develop unity, and to build trust and self-esteem. The social skills and attitudes that children develop within the family circle are the skills and attitudes they will carry with them the rest of their lives

Sample Agenda for Family Meetings: (1)

Ground Rules for Family Meetings: (2)

Find out more about family meetings, including tips for what to discuss, where to hold them, setting an agenda, problem solving, and other important details.

What are some other resources to help parents help their kids get along better?

Check out these related topics on YourChild:

More resources for parents:

Resources for you and your kids:

What are some good books for parents on sibling rivalry?

Read at least one of these two books to give you a better understanding of how family relationships affect how your kids get along.  These books contain tools and techniques you can begin using right away.  They are both easy to read, and have lots of examples.

Another book that may be helpful is:

What are some good kids’ books that deal with sibling relationships?


Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, R.N.  Reviewed by Brenda Volling, Ph.D.

Updated October 2011

U-M Health System Related Sites:
Department of Psychiatry
U-M Pediatrics

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