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Sibling RIvalry-2

How to deal with Sibling Rivalry : An Expert’s Advice

“You love him more than me!”, “I wish I were an only child!”, “I hate my brother!”, “I wish she wasn’t born in this family!!


Do the above statements sound familiar to you? Are they heard regularly at your home? If you have more than one kid, you surely have…


Sibling rivalry is a normal part of growing up, but it can drive parents crazy.


Sibling RIvalry-2


Dr Manjiri Deshpande ( Psychiatrist – Indlas Child Guidance Clinics- ICGC, Mumbai ) answers all your questions, to help you tackle this issue in a healthy way.


What is sibling rivalry?


Jealousy of a child towards his / her sibling is called “sibling rivalry”. 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 stressful for parents. However, it is not always unhealthy.  It is a way for them to learn assertiveness. It is a way of learning to cope with the wider world. It also teaches them to share, care and cooperate with others.


At what age is it common?

It usually begins after the birth of a second child or even before the second child is born.


Why does it occur?

Children want to be the sole centre of attraction and attention in their house. When a younger sibling is born, they feel insecure. The new born draws more attention from the family members and guests. Till now, he/she was the centre of attraction, but now his/her sibling shares it. Also everything needs to be shared – toys, love, attention, time and most importantly parents! Children may feel their relationship with their parents is threatened by the arrival of a new baby, thus making them feel jealous and negative towards the sibling.


What can I do to tackle it?

Some things that parents can follow:

  • Don’t play favorites. Avoid taking sides. Be neutral.
  • Try not to compare your children to one another, let each child be who they are.
  • Pay attention to the time of day during which conflicts usually occur.  Try to identify the triggers. At times, a change in the routine, an earlier meal, or a well-planned quiet activity could help avert your kids’
  • Being fair is very important, but it is not the same as being equal.Older and younger children may have different privileges due to their age differences. Make sure they understand the difference. Make the younger one understand that even if elder sibling has more privileges, he also has more responsibilities.
  • Even if you always try to treat your children equally, there will still be times when they  feel you are partial, be prepared for this. Reassure your kids that you do your best to meet each of their unique needs.
  • Plan family activities that are fun for everyone. If your kids have good experiences together, it acts as a buffer when they come into conflict. It’s easier to work it out with someone you share happy memories with.
  • Make sure each child has enough time and space of their own. Let them have their own set of friends.
  • Be there for each child, set aside “alone time” for each child
  • Listen to your children. Make them feel you are there. They may not be so difficult if they know you care.
  • Let each child know they are special in their own way. Respect their differences and focus on their individual strengths.


If my kids are fighting, should I intervene or let them handle it themselves?
  • Avoid getting in the middle of an argument unless a child is in danger of getting hurt. Try to let your kids resolve their own issues. Stepping in won’t teach your kids how to handle conflict, and it could make it seem as though you’re favoring one child over another
  • Dangerous fights need to be stopped immediately.If they are getting aggressive and hitting each other or using foul language, separate the children.  When they have calmed down, talk about what happened and make it very clear that no violence will be allowed
  • Hold children equally responsible when ground rules get broken.
  • Help your kids develop the skills to work out their conflicts on their own.
  • Set ground rules. However when you are setting rules, let your kids have a say in how the rules are established. Letting your kids play a role in the decision-making process will make them feel good and help them to follow rules.
  • Help your kids find words for their feelings.  Show them how to talk about their feelings, without yelling, name-calling, or violence
  • When your kids follow the rules, praise them for it. Instead of punishing them, take away some of their privileges when they break rules.


I have a 3 yr old son and I am currently pregnant , what can I do to ensure my elder child fosters positive feelings for his sibling?


This is the best time to ensure that your child fosters positive feelings for the ‘to be born’ child. Some things that you can follow are:

  • Right from the start of your pregnancy, keep your child informed about the to be born baby.
  • Take their help and involve them in things concerning the to be born baby like buying a cradle, setting up the room. Due to this, they will develop a sense of responsibility for the younger sibling.
  • Try to use words like “your brother/ your sister” from initial stages so child learns to accept his sibling with ease.
  • Once your child is born and home, ensure that you do spend some time with the older one alone. Make sure he does not feel ignored else it will lead to jealousy and negative feelings towards his sibling.
  • Encourage the elder one to tough and play with the new born. Take his help while taking care of the younger one.


Even after you do all of it, sibling rivalry can still occur, but it’s a part of growing up and with your help, they will overcome it and develop a strong everlasting bond with each other.


Tell us what you think about Sibling Rivalry in the comments below.



Manjiri Deshpande
By Dr. Manjiri Deshpande
DNB (Psychiatry) , Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Her main interests are child psychiatric conditions, counselling for conditions like anxiety disorders/depression/OCD/marital issues/relationship issues/teenage problems.