Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Sibling Rivalry

Category: Positive Parenting


      Sibling rivalry has been with us since Cain and Abel.  All first born children are upset when they begin to receive less attention from Mom and Dad because of a new addition to the family.  This is to be expected and not anything to be overly concerned about.   Studies show that firstborn who have a good relationship with their mother suffer even more when the new infant arrives because they are used to getting lots of attention from her.  This may intensify the sibling rivalry for a while but again is normal and appropriate. 

     One of the best ways to help a child who is experiencing frustration because of a new infant in the home is to give them lots of extra individual attention.  Also, try and incorporate them in the care of the new baby so that they feel it is their baby and they are part of the excitement and newness.  As the children grow older these resentments will erupt into fights, jealousies, picking and occasionally serious dislike of each other and attacks upon each other verbally and/or physically.  In most cases it is best to allow children to work things out and to stay in the background.

    However, if one child is truly bullying another and hurting them then the parent must become a referee and separate them.  One of the best ways to get them to be more cooperative and to play together in a more positive way is to give them each chores every time they get into a fight.  This will usually send them in the direction of greater harmony very quickly. 

    One creative way of bringing siblings closer and decreasing sibling rivalry is to encourage each child in the family to focus on the positive in their brother or sister.  Teach them to build each other up.  When you are alone with one child let them know how important it is to the other child that they receive praise in a certain area.  Most children can understand this need and will want to work along with their parents to help their sibling.