Sibling rivalry can be a chronic source of frustration for parents, as they may feel that they spend most of their time mediating conflicts. This increases the stress and exhaustion of parenting. Constant conflict can also make it difficult to spend meaningful time with children, either together or separately.Some parents struggle to remain calm or patient in the face of intense rivalry. Others worry that the rivalry will negatively affect their children at school, with friends, or in adulthood.

The effects of rivalry on children vary. In the moment, an argument with a sibling can be stressful and frustrating, particularly when a child feels that a parent favors their sibling or does not care about their needs.

Chronic physical violence, particularly when one child is usually the victim and the other child is usually the perpetrator, can be traumatic. Chronic sibling violence may increase a child’s risk of posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, difficulties at school or with friends, and relationship problems in adulthood.

Conversely, sibling rivalry also confers some benefits. Siblings teach one another social skills. Early conflict resolution skills can prepare a child for the many conflicts of adulthood, as well as the challenges of living with other people, such as roommates or spouses. A 2013 study found that fifth graders without siblings had more social skills deficits, even five years after entering school. This trend suggests managing conflicts with siblings continues to confer significant social benefits even after a child enters school and spends daily time with other children.


Sibling rivalry is common, but not all forms of sibling rivalry are normal or healthy.

Some other strategies that may help include:

  • Preparing young children for the arrival of a new baby by talking to them about the baby and helping them feel like an important part of the process.
  • Not making sudden changes in a child’s life following the arrival of a new baby.
  • Consistently enforcing rules in an age-appropriate way. Siblings are more likely to behave abusively toward one another when such behavior is rewarded. For example, a child who can get what they want by stealing from a sibling is more likely to continue doing so.
  • Intervening in conflicts that are one-sided or physically aggressive.
  • Not showing favoritism or comparing children. Don’t urge one child to be more like the other. Don’t make negative gender or appearance-based comparisons. Don’t force twins to wear the same clothing or expect they will behave the same.
  • Spending meaningful alone time with each child. This makes it easier for parents to recognize and nurture each child’s unique personality and talents.


Children who accuse a parent of favoritism often feel genuinely distressed about the experience. So parents should not dismiss their concerns—even if the parent does not have a favorite. Instead, focus on what the child is feeling and how you can help ease those emotions.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Why do you feel like I have a favorite?
  • What could I do that would help you feel more loved?
  • Do you feel like you get enough time with me?
  • What could I do to improve your relationship with your sibling?
  • How can I help you and your sibling better manage conflict?

Some strategies for managing allegations of favoritism include:

  • Being mindful of your own biases. Sometimes parents are more compatible with one child than another. A parent who loves sports and rough play may have trouble relating to a child who prefers to spend quiet time reading a book. Plan activities together, and encourage your child to share their interests.
  • Noticing each child’s unique personality and talents. Compliment children not just for the achievements that matter most to you, but for those that matter most to them. An aspiring artist may care more that you notice the comic book they drew than that you reward them for good grades.
  • Focusing on a child’s feelings rather than the truth of any accusations they make about favoritism. Love isn’t an easily measurable emotion, so it is next to impossible to “prove” that you like each child equally. If you can make your child feel more loved, then they will likely feel less need to compete with their sibling for your affection.


Back to Top
Close Zoom
Arabic English

Call Now