How to Reduce Sibling Rivalry

Ways to Foster Cooperation Instead of Competition Between Kids

Bring some peace to the home by using these ideas to help encourage cooperation and cut down competition between brothers and sisters.

It’s nice for kids to have brothers and sisters to play with, but fighting and competitiveness between them can be hard for everyone in the family. Here are some tips for parents to help make the home a more peaceful place for everyone involved.

Make No Comparisons Between Kids

Treat each child as the unique individual he or she is and don’t compare siblings to each other in conversations with them or other people. So avoid saying things like, “Mary, why don’t you work harder to get good grades like your brother Mark? “ or “Jack, you are so messy, why can’t you be more like your sister and clean up after yourself?”

Appreciate Children for Their Unique Gifts

Parents should help kids work on what they need to work on and encourage them when they improve. Support them in the activities they like. For example, go out to their sports games or post their art on the walls. Also, keep an eye out for and nurture their special talents and skills. If one child has an aptitude for art, spend time with her painting and drawing. And if the other one has a love for soccer, why not go out in the back and kick the ball around with him?

Keep Labels off Children

Some kids might be more talented in one area than the other, but it’s not helpful to label kids as “the smart one” or “the athletic one” if parents want their kids to grow to their full potential. This tends to make kids feel the pressure to live up to the label to be the smartest or the more athletic one, causing added stress and self-esteem issues if they feel they can’t live up to the title. On the flip side, it can also make them put some effort into other skills because they feel it is the “territory” of another child or they feel they can’t be as good as that sibling at that particular ability or task.

Be Careful Not to Pit Kids Against Each Other

Sometimes parents try to get kids to do things through competitions. For example, they may say things like, “First one to get his shoes and jacket on is the winner.” It can seem to be an effective tool for the short term, but the long-term goal is for kids to work together as a family instead of setting up a sense of competition between individuals over who the “winner” and “loser” is.

Encourage Effort not Performance

Kids have different abilities and are different ages in a family, so it’s important to show appreciation for a child’s efforts instead of the end product. For example, an older child might be better at doing a lot more tasks than a younger child and it can be frustrating for the younger one that his or her work doesn’t look the same even if he or she puts in the same effort or more. Instead of saying “Perfect job!” try saying “I see you put a lot of work into doing that.” The latter can be said to either the older or younger child about the work they have done.

Parents Need to Role Model Cooperation

Is there any competitiveness between parents? If there is, kids will notice. Working together as a team is one of the best ways for parents to teach kids how to do the same. When arguments happen between parents, work towards a solution to the problem instead of arguing about who is right or wrong or who the winner or loser of the verbal battle is.

Ways to keep sibling rivalry down include not comparing or labeling kids, appreciating their unique gifts, and encouraging them for their efforts versus the end results.

Need more parenting advice? Read also Helping Kids Deal With Anger, Dealing With Conflict and Helping Kids Solve Their Own Problems.


Schafer, Alyson. Breaking the Good Mom Myth: Every Modern Mom’s Guide to Getting Past Perfection, Regaining Sanity, and Raising Great Kids. Mississauga, Ontario: John Wiley & Sons Canada, 2007.