Wholeness Healing Today

Sibling Rivalry

June 1st has arrived and with that we mark the beginning point of summer vacation.  Already, I am hearing from parents about the challenges that come that come with the extended time off, structure falling by the way side and kids being out of sync with their sleeping, eating and activity patterns.  If the kids are home with each other all day long, sibling rivalry may have only just begun. As a parent, I recall those summer days when I was going to work and fielding phone calls about who did and said what to whom. It can be hard to know how to handle sibling wars.

First it is important to realize that some sibling rivalry is normal.  Dr. Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D, author of best-selling book 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 wants to drill home this point.  It is in our nature to be competitive for resources that include “parental attention.”  (Quaglio, 2016)

Here are a few tips to get you through the summer.  These come from Amy McCready founder of Positive Parenting.

  1. Invest in one-on-one time.  Often the child just wants some of your attention.  Giving him/her 10-15 minutes a day, doing an activity he/she chooses can turn the negative behaviors into more positive.
  2. Make sure you don’t compare your children or label them as “this is my quiet child”. If there is competitiveness going on, it is important not to make things more escalated.
  3. Validate the feelings of each child by recognizing the emotions and guiding him/her in how to manage the feelings. Having the feelings are normal and making sure they are appropriately managed is part of helping children develop.
  4. Don’t engage in tattling. If the child is coming to you to get ideas to work things out, or to inform an adult that someone is hurt or in danger, you can brainstorm.  If it is to get the other in trouble, just let the child know you don’t respond to tattles.
  5. Allow the kids to work out their differences when you can which builds the skills they need to work out their differences. If you do step in, merely mediate without taking any sides and being the judge, guiding them to problem/solve. If there is refusal to find a solution, then use “everyone is in the same boat”.  That means everyone has the same consequence.
  6. Do set appropriate boundaries and consequences if the fighting turns abusive – either physically or emotionally. Often this happens when an older child is aggressive to the younger child.  One of the signs of this is when one child is always the victim and the other the aggressor.  If this is happening, validate the older child’s feelings as they have the right to their feelings. But set the boundaries that no physical and emotional abuse can happen. (McCready, 2014)

Summer can drag on when kids have too much time together and the sibling rivalry mounts in frequency and intensity.  Take a deep breath, stay calm, implement some of these tips with the focus on helping them resolve their small problems, equipping them with the skills they will need as they get older and bringing more peace into your home.

Works Cited

McCready, A. (2014, June 25). he-started-it-10-secrets-stop-summer-sibling-squabbles. Retrieved from today.com.

Quaglio, L. (2016, July 19). Summer-sibling-rivalry. Retrieved from www.blog.activityhero.com.



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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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