February Question of the Month—Dealing with Sibling Rivalry




Bickering, complaining, arguing and nagging. Ask any parent about the biggest obstacles in raising children and, inevitably, the words “sibling rivalry” will surface. Whether fighting over toys, arguing over who gets to go first or competing for a parent’s attention, sibling rivalry is often a very real part of being a family.

Our January Question of the Month asked our readers to share their best strategies for dealing with sibling rivalry. Over half of readers who responded (52 percent) say that they intervene selectively—but only when an argument gets too heated or physical. Over one-forth (26 percent) indicated that sibling rivalry does not apply to their household, mostly because they have only one child or due to a large age difference between children. For more than 17 percent of readers, the best solution in their homes is to intervene and redirect the children to other activities. A small percentage say they simply stay out of the disagreement and let their children work it out or use other methods (about 2 percent each).

Our readers shared more about their strategies for dealing with sibling rivalry:

  • For Jennifer C. of Edmond, occasional intervention is the best way to teach her children cooperation. “A lot of times our kids can work out their differences. If it looks like someone is going to say or do something out of line, my husband or I will intervene. We won't allow our kids to be physical or to say hurtful things to each other. We try to teach them to do and say things they would want done or said to them.”
  • Celina L. of Norman says the age difference between her kids helps decrease the bickering in their house. “For the most part, my boys get along well, considering the age difference of 9 years. The only time I ‘butt in’ is when the oldest is getting out of hand with the ‘friendly teasing.’”
  • Alicia S. of Nichols Hills has a “hands-off” philosophy for dealing with conflict: “I know I will not always be around to help stop their arguments, so therefore I try to let them work it out for themselves first.”
  • Frequent intervention does the trick for Erica T. of Del City. “You have to step in as a parent and take control of the situation. Otherwise, they will just keep on being rivals.”
  • For Emily N. of Del City, it is all about balance. “Sometimes, I find it easier for them to reach a solution between themselves. Other times, I feel they need a little guidance or a neutral third party decision.”

Other reader advice:

  • Deanna A., El Reno — Sometimes they need to work things out on their own.  They need to learn how to deal with conflict, but if it gets to heated I intervene and try to help them solve the problem!
  • Judy A., Noble — It's good not to intervene all the time.  Gives children a chance to work things out themselves which they have to do in life all the time anyway.  But, intervene if it looks like someone may get hurt or the argument goes on too long.
  • Cindy B., Edmond — My kids are small (5 and 1) so sometimes I need to step in before one of them gets hurt. Other times, I like to try to let them resolve issues on their own.
  • Jennifer C., Edmond — A lot of times our kids can work out their differences.  If it looks like someone is going to say or do something out of line, my husband or I will intervene.  Usually both are right, but for different reasons or both are wrong.  We won't allow our kids to be physical with each other or to say hurtful things to each other.  We try to teach them to do and say things they would want done or said to them and if they don't want to be hit or told they are dumb, they shouldn't do or say those things.
  • Allison C., Edmond — It's something I struggle with, when to intervene... I am accused of picking favorites when I do, but I can't stand to see one child bullied by another.
  • Amy C., Jones — I try to let them resolve the issue until it gets too rough...then I intervene! I don't want to have to rush someone to the ER!
  • Brandie C., Oklahoma City — The kids are 9 and 21 months and my 21 month has an attitude
  • Sherry C., Oklahoma City — Children establish a pecking order and if not allowed to work between themselves they will continue until it gets very physical and unsafe.
  • Jessica C., Oklahoma City — When my kids get a little older (7-8) I will  let my kids work out their disagreements. At this age, if they have been instructed to know whats acceptable behavior they should be able to deal with the issue. It's a good learning tool for them to learn to deal with others as well.
  • Rhonda F., Altus — I talk to them about why they are upset with sibling and try to make them realize what went wrong.
  • Amy F., Midwest City — I only have one child, a toddler, and even when we've been with other toddlers, there's not much fighting.  If one takes a toy from the other, I talk about sharing and try to distract/redirect the "taker" with another toy or activity.
  • Michelle J., Oklahoma City — Children need to learn conflict resolution
  • Erika J., Oklahoma City — I feel it's important that they learn to work some things out on their own.
  • Celina L., Norman — For the most part my boys get along considering the age difference, 9 years, so the only time I "butt in" is when the oldest is getting out of hand with the "friendly teasing" .
  • Destiny M., Edmond — To intervene and redirect them to something else
  • Mindy M., Moore — My 4 year old doesn't like to share or takes away my 10 month olds toys.  I have them share or take turns with the toy.  Sometimes though my 10 month old gets the toy since she is younger and doesn't understand a lot yet.
  • Kami M., Oklahoma City — I think they have to learn how to work something out for themselves.
  • Emily N., Del City — Sometimes, I find it easier for them to reach a solution between themselves.  Other times, I feel they need a little guidance or a neutral third party decision.
  • Shea O., Oklahoma City — I try to allow my children to work out their own issues in the way that best fits them; however, if things get too nasty, I will intervene and make them discuss the situation so they have a better way to handle it the next time.
  • Heather P., Oklahoma City — if any physical contact occurs I attempt to redirect, otherwise, they are left to their own devices.
  • Mandi R., Stillwater — I can't be involved in every fight!
  • Rosalyn R., Edmond — I believe kids should disagree and argue about some things. I let them disagree as long as they don't hurt each other physically or verbally. If they do begin to hurt each other, they can expect a talk from me!
  • Angela R., Norman — My strategy is to lay low unless they are hitting, biting, or actually on top of the other. I figure that they need to learn to deal with problems but biting is never ok.
  • Genie R , Norman — My two are 3 and 1, so redirection tends to work well right now. If it gets heated or physical, then I will remove the perpetrator to another room to play independently so that both has time to cool down....
  • Wanda R., Oklahoma City — We are a single child family.  in dealing with friends, i stay out of the way unless they cannot resolve the situation then i become a moderator.
  • Sherry S., Edmond — I try to let them work things out.
  • Denise S. , Edmond — I wait to see if it becomes physical, if it does then I intervene.  Usually it stops before it gets to that point.
  • Letha S., Edmond — They need to learn to work it out, but not hurt each other. I intervene when it is going too far.
  • Alicia S., Nichols Hills — I know I will not always be around to help stop their arguments and therefore I try to let them work it out for themselves first.
  • Erica T., Del City — You have to step in as a parent and take control of the situation. Otherwise they will just keep on being rivals.
  • Rachel T., Edmond — I know that they will fight but I try to make them appreciative of each other. They will be the best of friends when they are older!
  • Jason T , Edmond — Sometimes of they are just talking I will let them work it out.
  • Jeannie T., Edmond — They always have little fights. I only intervene if it gets out of hand.
  • Kelly T., Edmond — They both give each other a hard time at times but when it's late or I don't want to hear it- I will re-direct them !
  • Robin W , edmond — I have a toddler and a 6 year old, so I typically intervene only when one of them gets too rough for the other.  Most of the time they work things out pretty well, we have to remind the almost 2 yr old to share but the age difference seems to help.  That's our strategy for now :)  We stay flexible!
  • Tara W., Edmond — I have only one child, but as having siblings, we always try to work things out by communicating explaining what the problem was and the way to resolve the issue.
  • Rebecca W., Moore — Take some time out

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