Tips For Dealing With Sibling Rivalry


The biggest problem I have as a parent of two boys who are 2 years and nine months apart, is the constant fighting. My oldest child feels the need to be the third parent to our four-year old. Our four-year old reels in anger when JJ opens his mouth to correct him or parent. I continually tell JJ that it’s not his job to parent his little brother, to let mom and dad handle it, or to simply tell us if Braidy is in a dangerous situation and needs to be stopped. 

Also between the two of them, who share a bedroom, its hard to keep their toys and belonging separated. We have a playroom where most of the toys reside. It’s great for when I host play groups. Overtime it becomes blurred as to whose toy is who’s. This is especially true with Legos. We have one giant bin of Legos that the boys can pull out from under their bed and play with together. But then there’s the petty arguing of one of them wanting a piece the other one is using. Its constant and its nerve wrecking and I know I’m not the only mother out there dealing with the petty arguing. 

So how do we remedy the situation?

Obviously if your children have their own rooms, it can make things a little easier and toys don’t have to be as “shared” if they aren’t also sharing a bedroom where you usually have a common toy box for all the toys. You could label the toys, write “Andy at the bottom of his Sheriff Woody doll, but what if the bickering goes deeper than toys? What if it’s about who brushes their teeth first at a shared sink, or who eats their cereal faster than the other, leaving them in a puddle of tears thinking they just aren’t as good as their sibling? Yes, this does happen. In fact my children race to get out of the car to shut the garage door first. It’s a real thing here and thank God I have an auto-reversing garage door because that could really hurt someone. The competitiveness between siblings can be fierce and unrelenting and down right daunting for parents who just want the pettiness to stop. 

When Your Children’s Ages Prohibit Being Fair

Some of the most common problems I have include things that my seven-year old is allowed to do, but my four-year old just isn’t old enough to do yet. For example, my seven-year old can ride his bike six houses down to the house at the corner of the street and play with his friend Tegan in the front yard only. He’s not allowed to go any further than that, if he breaches that, he knows he’s grounded. My four-year old is simply not allowed to have that much freedom yet. I will let my four-year old play with the girl next door in the front yard only where I can see him. My four-year old fails to see why he can’t do what his older brother can do and go down the street by himself. It’s hard for kids that age to understand why they can’t do the same as their older sibling…heck, I’m sure its hard for kids any age to understand why they can’t do what their older sibling can do. 

Making it as Fair as possible

At any rate defusing the situation can be something like this. When you child goes down the street to a friend’s house to play and the four-year-old can’t go with, allow them to have something they don’t normally have during that time, like screen time, or if they love playing with play dough or paint…let them do something special or agreed upon when your oldest is at their friend’s house.

I’m still trying to figure out the whole sibling rivalry thing, but some obvious factors will be taking turns, and setting aside special time for each child so they don’t feel like they have to compete for your affection and agreeing on special tasks or activities your younger one can do, when your oldest is engaged in an activity that is age appropriate for them, but not for your younger child. For me this has been the hardest part of parenting. 

What would you say the hardest part of parenting is for you?  

About Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

Heartfully Heather


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Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

20 thoughts on “Tips For Dealing With Sibling Rivalry

  1. I’m 18 months older than my sister and was always jealous of her and she of me! For instance I felt that she was allowed to get away with things that I’d never been allowed to do at that age, while she resented the attention I got when I was ill (which was a lot). I suppose it’s natural for parents to be more cautious with the first-born so that while I wasn’t allowed to cycle to school til I was 13, H. was allowed at 10. The same applied to going to dances or parties, makeup, heels etc. as we grew up.

    All you can do is to try as best you can to give equal time to both (not always easy) but in the long run, things usually sort themselves out.

    1. Yeah, it can be hard because we preach fairness, well how can you 100 percent be fair and protect your younger ones from experiencing things in life they really shouldn’t until they are older.
      It’s definitely a balancing act and will always elicit some tears and “that’s not fair” attitudes. But we are the parents and we know when they are ready for certain things.

  2. My brother and I never really fought when we were young; however, there are four years that separate us.

  3. My brother and I definitely had a rivalry between us growing up, but we have grown out of it now that we are adults. These are good tips though.

  4. In dealing with my own children, I try to remember how I was with my sister. We went at each other quite a bit, but there was always love there. Now, we’re best of friends.

  5. Dealing with sibling rivalry is probably one of the hardest jobs I’ve encountered as a parent. It is so hard for them to understand how age has an effect on the freedoms that they can have– yet it limits them on being able to boss.

  6. I only have one child but I grew up with a brother and a sister. My sister and I did compete in some ways but I think it was because we were so close in age and my parents really made it worse because they had no idea how to handle it. I think some of their actions pitted us against each other unbeknownst to them.

  7. My children are 5 years apart and it was difficult keeping the peace at times because my older one didn’t like that the younger one didn’t have to do as much as he did. He never really understood until he was older that he was allowed more freedom where as she wasn’t. It is all about finding a balance and what works for your family.

  8. Oh, we suffered through so much sibling rivalry with our son and daughter who are two years apart. These are great tips, a few I used. The rest would’ve came in handy back then.

  9. I’m starting to get a touch of the sibling rivalry now. My son is 10 and my daughter 6. I just realized I do baby her a little more because she is a girl and my last child so I have t make sure that I am being fair now that my son has started to make comments.

    It’s so weird when they are getting along it is so touching to see but when they fight. OMG! I’m an only child so this has really been a learning process for me to see the dynamic between siblings.

    1. Yes, I remember fighting just as badly with my little brother. When you have to mediate it, it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is, especially if you didn’t see what happened initially.

  10. These are really great tips for dealing with sibling rivalry. As a mom of three, I know all too well what it’s like when the sibling wars begin. Fairness is always the best approach.

  11. These are definitely some great tips! My kids are still young (3 1/2 and 5 years old) and at the moment there is no sibling rivalry at all. I do understand though that it will happen one day!!!

  12. Oh I have been here, my boys are 22 months apart and had a hard time sharing. Now they have a hard time not picking on each other. As playful as they make it, I still find myself being a referee. My brother and I where the same way. We would take turns visiting my grandmother in the summer (the only break my mom ever had).

  13. Boy you should be at my house. I have five grandchildren and they all fight. I have one that thinks he’s the parent and he has to be the worst one to handle. I have tried everything to discipline them but all the arguing continues. Someday I hope to figure out how to stop all the fighting. Please let me know if you figure it out….

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