Sibling rivalry is a common issue in families with more than one child. Competition and conflicts often arise as children struggle for their parents’ attention and approval. Left unchecked, these rivalries can grow increasingly hostile and damaging over time. Fortunately, parents can do several things to encourage a more harmonious relationship between their kids.

Divide Attention Evenly

One of the main causes of sibling rivalry stems from perceptions of unequal treatment or favouritism. While parents may not have actual favourites, it’s easy for sensitive children to interpret differential treatment as preference. Make sure to divide your attention, affection and discipline as evenly as possible between siblings. Spend regular one-on-one time with each child, so they know they’re equally valued. Be careful about comparisons as well – each child should feel recognised for their own merits.

Establish Clear Rules and Expectations

Undefined rules and inconsistent consequences often heighten conflicts between siblings. If you are fostering siblings, for example, set clear guidelines for behaviour and responsibilities around the house. Make sure each child understands what’s expected of them for chores, homework, media usage and interpersonal interactions. Then follow through with appropriate praise or consequences every time. This helps minimise perceptions of unfairness and resentment between siblings.

Refrain from Comparisons

It’s natural for parents to compare their children’s performance and development. However, making these comparisons verbally tears down self-esteem and exacerbates rivalries. Each child develops at a different pace, with variable strengths, weaknesses and interests. Avoid comparing them outright when discussing schoolwork, extracurriculars, behaviour or anything else tied to a sense of self-worth. Appreciate each child’s own growth and effort independently. 

Find Shared Activities

Encouraging siblings to participate together in playtime prevents boredom and feelings of isolation that can stir up conflicts. Identify games, sports, hobbies and other activities they might both enjoy. You can foster bonding through shared participation in everything from board games and crafts at home to community teams and classes. Shared enjoyment builds familiarity and goodwill to offset rivalrous tendencies.

Mediate Conflicts Even-Handedly

Despite best efforts, some degree of sibling conflict remains inevitable. When disputes do arise, avoid taking sides unless one child’s actions severely cross ethical lines. Remain calm and objective, allowing each party the chance to share their perspective without interruption. Identify points of common understanding to ease tensions, then guide the conversation toward compromise and reconciliation. Refocus their energy toward cooperative play or tasks so they leave the argument behind quickly.

Model Supportive Sibling Interaction

Children look to parents as their primary guide for behaviour and relationships. Make sure you exemplify the positive, caring sibling bond you want your children to emulate. Avoid criticising or rudely interacting with siblings, extended family members or other relatives in front of the kids. Express your appreciation and affection for loved ones openly. This demonstrates the importance of respectful, supportive sibling bonds from an early age.

The keys to reducing sibling rivalry include dividing parental attention evenly, setting clear rules, refraining from comparisons, shared activities, even-handed mediation and positive modelling. With mindful parenting choices, healthy sibling bonds will flourish over competitive divisions. Consistency and effort in these areas make a lifelong difference.