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Sibling Rivalry

By Anne Leedom

I must have been about 13 when my father and I were taking a drive and I mentioned to him something about life being fair...or needing to be in my opinion. He looked right at me as he always did when he wanted to impart some worldly wisdom and asked me whoever said life was supposed to be fair? I was very surprised, as I certainly did believe at that point that life was indeed supposed to be fair. I can't think of a more prominent arena for the concept of fairness to be played out than when it comes to siblings.

However, I have learned that as a parent treating kids equally is plain unrealistic: they come packaged with different temperaments, interests, and needs. So don't drive yourself too crazy trying to make things always fair. It just isn't realistic. Besides, real life really isn't fair. The trick is to minimize conditions that break down sibling relationships that can cause long-lasting resentment. The bottom line to this behavior problem: while some rivalry is plain unavoidable, parents can discourage sibling disharmony by giving careful attention to how their household atmosphere is structured.

There is no miracle to eliminating sibling rivalry but by compassion and caring behavior and following these tips, your home can be more harmonious.

Don't compare. Never compare or praise one kid's behavior in contrast to a sibling: it can create long-lasting strains. It unfairly puts pressure on the sibling you praised and devalues your other child.

Listen openly to all sides. Listening fairly to your kids is a powerful way to convey that you respect each child's thoughts and feelings. The key is to build a fair relationship with each sibling so they trust that you value each opinion and you're an unbiased listener.

Nurture a unique strength for each sibling. All kids deserve to hear from parents what makes them unique. Knowledge of that talent nurtures their self-esteem as well as setting them apart from their siblings. Once you identify the talent, find opportunities to cultivate and validate it so each child can be acknowledged for their strength.

Create special alone time with each child. One way to let each child feel treasured is by spending alone just with each parent. Make a date with each sibling to have special time just with you then mark it on the calendar.

Reinforce cooperative behavior. Don't overlook one of the simplest ways to boost sibling harmony: catch them supporting each other. The moments may be few and far between, but when they do help, share, cooperate, and work well together, tell them you appreciate their efforts. They're more likely to repeat the behaviors because they know that's what you want them to do.

Your child's sibling is the only person they will know and have in their life from cradle to grave. Teach them to value and be grateful for that relationship. Having three siblings myself I can truly say that in spite of many years of interesting moments, I feel very blessed to have these relationships and I look forward to watching my girls place the same value on their siblings as I do mine.

Anne Leedom is the publisher of and the creator of the App Mom 911. For more information visit

Tags: Parenting, Relationships, Relatives, Sibling rivalry, Siblings
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