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Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry starts as early as before the second child is even born. The anxiety and jealousy a first-born feels before their brother or sister is born can lead to rivalry starting from an extremely young age – without them even really fully comprehending why they are feeling that way.

When my sister was born I was 6 years old. That’s 6 years of being an only child and the only focus of my parent’s attention. When my sister was born my parents were totally taken up with this new baby. They were busy and tired and nursing a little one. I couldn’t understand it. I had gone from being ‘the only one’ to ‘the older one’ in days and I didn’t like it. I was jealous and unreasonable. I even remember me telling my mum that I had decided I no longer wanted a sister and could she please take her back to the store!

At the time I had no comprehension of why I felt that way but now, going through my own time as a mother with two young children I can completely see how and why it happens. So, WHY DO KIDS FIGHT? Mainly it’s caused by jealousy or competition eg competition for affection from parents or grandparents. This competition can make them swing from adoring one another to detesting one another at any point in time.

There are other factors at play too. eg it could just be evolving needs. Kids needs change all the time. For example, a toddler might be naturally protective of their toys and belongings so if a baby brother or sister picks up their toy they may well bash them over the head with it. For school children they have more of a concept of fairness and equality. Therefore if one child gets a play date and the other child doesn’t they deem this unfair and are likely to have a big sulk. Or it could just be down to their different personalities.

Whatever causes it, it can be stressful and upsetting for any parents to have to tear apart their children. So, here are some tips to cope with it:

1. Don’t Get Involved

I know this is hard to do but if you always step in then they will start to expect you always being there to resolve their issues and won’t learn to resolve them by themselves. You also run the risk of¬†always appearing on one child’s side ‘rescuing’ them from the other sibling.

If you HAVE to get involved then try these tactics:

2. Separate them. But them in different rooms until they calm down.

3. Don’t put too much focus on figuring out who is to blame – anyone involved in fighting is to blame!

4. If they are fighting over a toy then try giving them equal time with that toy. If they are still fighting over it, take the toy away so nobody gets it rather than ‘awarding it’ to one of them.

5. Set some ground rules: No name calling/ door slamming/ yelling and tell them what the consequence will be when they break these rules.

6. Each week give your child one-on-one attention and do something with them that they will enjoy.

7. Every week do something fun together as a family. Family activities help reduce conflict.

8. Recognise that each of your children sometimes just need a little space from each other. Try arranging separate play dates so you can spend one-on-one time with the other child.

Try to remember that no matter how upsetting it is to watch your children fight, it is important they learn how to cope with disputes themselves. It is skills that will serve them for life eg how to value another person’s perspective, how to compromise and negotiate, and how to control aggressive behaviour.


For more information or to listen to our podcast click on the link above.

If you have any more tips or stories to share concerning Sibling Rivalry, we’d love to hear.



Written by

Jacqui Lockington is a working mum. Jacqui works full-time for an advertising agency in New Zealand and juggles life at work with being mum to two young children, Jack and Sasha. Jacqui is married to John and has published her first book with co-author, Nat - If Only They'd Told Me. She does public speaking and regularly blogs and records podcasts. Jacqui trained in journalism in London and worked in radio, newspapers, public relations and advertising before moving to New Zealand where she currently lives with her family. You can contact Jacqui at