News & Media

11 July 2022

Sibling rivalry: how to manage competitive kids

Siblings pushing each other, arguing over whose turn it is to pick a television show, or competing for the first hug when we first walk in the door… any of this sound familiar?

Sibling rivalry is something most of us parents live with – day in, and day out. It can be constant and niggling. After all, unlike any other relationship, siblings have the capacity to turn the simplest of activities into a battlefield, and quickly.

If you’re a parent, you’ll be nodding in agreement and perhaps recalling some big moments you have lived through with your little (or big) ones.

Take a deep breath and be assured this is totally normal. Most siblings will fight or compete with one another at any moment, for no particular reason.

But you probably don’t care if sibling rivalry is normal… you want some solutions, right?

Below are some simple strategies that may help reduce the number of outbursts that happen in your household. Just remember, parenting can involve lots of trials and errors, so if some of these strategies don’t work, you may have to adapt them. Just be patient and have faith in yourself; you are the expert on your children and on what works best for you and your family.

Young child smiling playing putty

Sibling rivalry tip #1: make a special and regular time to spend with each child.

This can be in any form. Take the time to discuss their interests, ask how their day went, read a book together, or shoot basketball hoops. This time should be focused on each child, and what they are interested in.

Sibling rivalry tip #2: Anticipate the arguments, and set up fair and equal access.

This might mean dividing treats equally before calling your children over. (This is a great tip if you want to avoid multiple little hands snatching and grabbing due to the fear of missing out).

You can also set out plates at the table and allocate a seat before calling the kids to dinner, so they won’t fight over who sits where. Change the places around for the next meal.


Sibling rivalry tip #3: Give siblings the opportunity to perform activities separately.

Avoid putting siblings in activities where they compete against each other and compare abilities. Encourage your kids to explore individual activities and sports; they might have different interests, and that’s OK. Let your kids explore their interests separately and be successful at whatever level they achieve.

One way to do this is by putting your children on separate sporting teams, or allowing siblings to pursue different arts activities like music, drama, and painting.

Sibling rivalry tip #4: Make some ground rules.

Of course, at some stage, our children will have to share space and attention. In these situations, ground rules help a lot. It is a great idea to develop some ground rules together as a family, and make sure everyone knows the consequences (quiet time or time out) if the rules aren’t followed.

Rules should be simple and achievable. When children don’t stick to the family rules, be consistent and reliable with the consequences.

Sibling rivalry: how to manage competitive kids

Sibling rivalry: helpful resources

If you or your family would like more information or support, you can access expert advice by clicking on the below links:

Positive Parenting Solutions

Better Health