Sibling rivalry is a normal part of childhood. The fact that it is a common doesn’t make it any less annoying for parents, however.

Knowing what causes sibling rivalry and how to handle it may improve the situation but chances are you are never going to eliminate it entirely. So what does cause sibling rivalry? Aside from the fact that you are dealing with children who don’t always think rationally, there are some key factors that can lead to what seems like constant fighting among siblings.

  1. Attention: Children naturally want the attention of their parents. When they see their brother or sister getting any attention from their parents they automatically view it as a threat. Things can become especially dicey after a new baby comes into the picture because newborns demand constant attention. In an effort to get more attention, many kids will act out.
  2. Personality Differences: Everyone is unique. If your family is composed of extroverts and introverts or athletes and artists, these differences are bound to lead to conflict.
  3. Possessions: If you are a parent, you know that getting kids to share can be next to impossible. However, sharing is something all children are going to have to do at some point.
  4. Questions of Fairness: We all know that life isn’t always fair but that doesn’t prevent kids from crying foul when they feel as if they are getting the short end of the stick. This is especially true if they feel that a brother or sister is always getting their own way!

While as a parent, your first inclination is to jump in when things get heated between siblings, that is not always a good idea. While the arguing may be more than you think you can take, the fact is, letting kids work it out between themselves is almost always the best course of action. If you intervene when children are arguing it may be seen as if you are taking sides. It also will prevent children from learning how to manage conflict. Finally, whether you believe it or not, kids are usually better at settling things when you don’t step in.

There are times, however, when things get so heated you must intervene. This is always true if you feel someone is in danger of being hurt. In such cases, the first thing you need to do is separate the siblings who are fighting so that they have the opportunity to calm down. Next, try to get all parties to communicate without yelling. If the siblings cannot come up with a solution to their problem you may have to do it for them.

If you are ever concerned that sibling rivalry has escalated out of control and you feel powerless to stop it, it’s time to talk to your pediatrician or a mental health provider. While it is true that siblings fight, it should never get to the point where you are concerned for one of your children’s physical or emotional health.

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