Tweens and teens sibling rivalry

Sibling rivalry is a normal part of life, but it is important how parents handle the rivalry.

When children reach the ages of eight to 12, sibling rivalry starts to increase. This is partly due to the fact that they are getting physically stronger and more opinionated. As older siblings become more independent, this can minimize the arguments, but it can also become more difficult for younger siblings to accept.

What are parents and caregivers supposed to do to help improve their older children’s relationships? When brothers and sisters fight there is typically no specific cause. The rivalry occurs for a number of different reasons. It could be status in the family, attention and/or ownership of material things. Here are some tips to help encourage happy, healthy sibling relationships as they become older.

  • Respect each child’s unique traits and individuality. For example, instead of buying all the kids the same thing or signing them up for the same activities, consider buying them something unique to their personality or ask for their input.
  • Avoid comparing! This is easier said than done, but it’s very important to try not to do. This can make siblings become angry, resentful and insecure. When praising, try to stick to describing the action you are pleased with rather than comparing it to another sibling.
  • Set ground rules. Make sure the tweens and teens understand what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to interacting with each other. Make sure everyone is aware of the consequences if they misbehave.
  • Don’t take sides. Encourage your kids to settle their own differences. Sometimes it may be necessary to act as the mediator. Consider helping them devise a solution through problem solving. Be careful not to overact. This can reinforce the rivalry.

Sibling rivalry is a fact of life. There will always be disagreements. How parents and caregivers use these opportunities is key. Learning how to deal with rivalry, tweens and teens can learn how to be cooperative, a good team player, problem solve and negotiate. Most of all they will likely become adults that will be more tolerant of others, as well as generous.

Michigan State University Extension offers a multitude of classes and resources on parenting, conflict resolution and violence prevention. For programs near you go to:

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