Sibling Rivalry In Kids: How to Reduce Fighting And Improve Bonding

As parents we assume it would be a perfect scenario to have two kids who would give each other good company and emotional support. In reality, most parents who have more than one kid, spend half their time and energies separating the kids who are forever unhappy with each other!

As per the definition, sibling rivalry is a type of competition or animosity among siblings, whether blood-related or not. The sibling bond is often complicated and is influenced by factors such as parental treatment, birth order, personality traits, people, and experiences outside the family.

Sibling rivalry is particularly intense when children are very close in age and of the same gender. Does that shatter all your hopes to see your two boys/girls have a loving relationship for the rest of their lives?
Sibling Rivalry In Kids: How to Reduce Fighting And Improve Bonding
Fret not. Approximately one-third of adults describe their relationship with siblings as rivalrous or distant. However, the good news is that this rivalry can be reduced.

And we’ve put together 2 simple steps for parents to make this happen — and we’ll tell you exactly HOW:

Step One: VAKC Method to enhance the bonding and relationship that the siblings share

Step Two: 7 tips to reduce the rivalry between kids at home

Vidya Ragu, psychologist, learning and development specialist from Chennai has an interesting methodology for parents on how to deal with sibling rivalry! It’s called ‘VAKC’! Want to know what that is? Read on!


The Secret Recipe to Improve Sibling Bonding at Home



Vidya explains, “Sibling bonding is one of the most beautiful things that a parent can encourage and reinforce in the family. It’s something that you’re investing as a family because that’s what’s going to reap rewards when they grow up.”

So what can parents do to encourage and facilitate it home?

Say hello to the VAKC concept. VAKC is an acronym for parents to remember to improve sibling bonding at home.

Let’s look at what each letter stands for…

Visual: Let siblings SEE the bonding

The first step to dealing with sibling rivalry is to make your children see more things which help them to understand the bonding they have with their sibling. These could be…

  • Putting down the special moments where the siblings are together (fighting, playing, hugging, anything)
  • Capturing the moments and making it a scrapbook
  • Stick these moments on the walls, their rooms, wherever possible and get them to see more of the bonding
  • Gifting the sibling on special occasions

Vidya suggests, “Another thing that can be done to increase or enhance the visual cues in the environment that bring around the bonding is to actually encourage the child to pick up things in the physical environment and make it a symbol of bonding.

It could even be simpler things, like keeping the books for the other brother or sister and getting things tidy while they’ve gone out to play. These small reminders tell us that there is another person in the environment who cares for me, who’s part of my system and we’re together as a family. And that’s the visual impact.”

Auditory: What the child hears about his/her sibling!

Keep a check on what the family says and child hears about the sibling and the bonding. Vidya says, “We’ve had experience where one of the parent comes and says, “Ah, that’s your brother, leave it!”. If we’re doing that and then expecting the child to have a bonding, there’s no way.

Parents have to intentionally and consciously bring around an environment where the bonding is fostered. Encourage moments where they’ve together done something.

Kinesthetic: Doing fun things together!

The next part of it is the doing part. K is Kinesthetic and this has got to be fun. Vidya suggests, “Encourage more of family times and play times.

It could be very simple things like pillow fight and water games… things to bond over where the siblings are on one team and the parent on the other.

So while playing, unintentionally there is a lot of bonding that is happening.”

All these moments impact their future relationship with each other — the more and more you intentionally create this into the family, at a later point of time, it becomes like “that’s my brother and I cannot do without him”.

Build sibling bonding by fostering commonality

“Another very interesting thing to look at is, they are two different individuals and rarely will you find something common. If one wants to do one thing, the other wants to do the extreme”, says Vidya.

“But as parents, as a family, it is essential for us to really look at what are the commonalities and encourage them more. Let them go into such activities where the commonality is fostered, where they can build more bonds together. A lot of family time is definitely the essential to build the bonding in siblings.”

And that’s the VAKC method to enhance Sibling Bonding at home. Now that you’ve taken a look at the aspect of bonding, let’s dive into the next aspect of reducing rivalry at home.

The effects of sibling rivalry can be reduced by taking necessary steps at home.

Here are some tips on how to solve sibling rivalry:

1) No comparisonsNever compare one child to the other!

As parents we make this grave mistake of comparing one child to the other or wanting one child to behave like the other.

“Sibling rivalry is there always by default. It’s common. Unfortunately, knowingly or unknowingly, it’s the parents who fuel the extreme dislike for siblings.

The feeling of jealousy and hatred amongst kids gets amplified when parents start comparing their kids or play favourites,” says Seema Hingorany, Mumbai’s leading Psychologist and Trauma Expert.

Parents can reduce the chance for rivalry by refusing to compare or typecast their children. So, learn to refuse to hold up one child as a role model for the others.

2) Avoid playing a refereeTry not to intervene when it's not crucial.

All siblings fight. Knowing when to intervene and more importantly when not to is a major step in how to handle sibling rivalry.

Avoid playing the referee and spoil the game! Encourage kids to share their feelings, but avoid announcing who is right and who is wrong.

“Small fights are healthy and children are learning to resolve their issues in the process. Avoid taking sides to aggravate the issue.

Smile, let them know it is normal and they need to learn to sort their issues together, unless kids become hyper and start using physical blow,” remarks Hingorany.

In moderation, sibling rivalry may be a healthy indication that each child is assertive enough to express his/her feelings and differences with other siblings and communicate.

3) Give equal attention and take preventive steps

We should be vigilant to our outburst of anger and emotions. Avoid playing favouritism and take effective preventive steps to reduce sibling rivalry.

Parents can take turns to be with a child.Never let your children feel you love one of them more or less. They may feel they’re not getting equal attention or responsiveness from parents.

So never belittle your child, put him/her down, or block the channel of communication. Stress in parents’ and children’s lives can create more conflict and increase sibling rivalry.

“As a preventive step, let your children pursue different hobbies and interests to avoid competition at home and ill-feelings,” shares Kajal A, a mother of twins from Mumbai.

The more you spend quality one-on-one time with each child daily, the lesser the chance of your kids becoming rivals. Mother and father can take turns to be with a child, if one of them is constantly required to give more time to the other child.


4) Empower your children

Teach your kids emotional-intelligence and conflict-resolution with patience and due course of time. Training children positive ways to ask for attention from parents when they need it can also make it less likely that they will resort to aggressive attention-seeking strategies like hitting a younger sibling.

Take out time to teach your children problem-solving skills, negotiation skills, and encourage them to look for win-win solutions.

“My younger son openly blames us for loving the elder one more. We would pamper him more and shower love and praise to make him feel better.

But now that the two boys are growing up fast, and the younger one is 5-years-old, we are consciously trying to change his attitude and make him learn the importance of sharing and being good friends with his brother,” says Aruna Tanikella, a mother of two boys, 5 and 9.

5) Find the real culpritFind out the underlying issue!

“It is important to find the real reason for siblings misbehaving with each other.

Many a time, the issue is not the sibling, but something else that’s bothering your child—bullying in school or not being able to cope up with something like feeling neglected.

The child may vent his/her anger and frustration on the younger or more vulnerable sibling if he/she is not confident to talk to parents.

Talk to your child when they are in a mood to listen. Explain to them that all kids are sometimes in bad mood, tired, or upset,” advises Hingorany.

Keep yourself abreast of all the happenings in your children’s life and guide them at every step. Spend quality time, talk to each of your children, and let them know you love them.

6) Plan family timeReinforce family bonding

Quality family time is perhaps the most efficient measure for parents to manage sibling rivalry.

Also called as ‘significance seeking,’ each child in a family competes to define who they are as individuals and want to show that they’re separate from their siblings.

Give them their space, but also make sure you plan fun, family times together that promote well-being, bonding, and teamwork.

Parents can help children resolve conflicts that arise as a normal part of growing up together in the same household. Nurture bonding and free play.

Let your kids know and appreciate that you’re one family, always there for each other irrespective of small fights.

7) Shower appreciation for maturityAppreciate your child's compassion towards his/her siblings.

Last but not the least, appreciate your child when he/she shows concern and compassion towards his/her siblings.

As parents, we tend to always tell the elder sibling to compromise, try finding other solutions to their issues.

Praise your children’s kindness, understanding, modesty, and maturity in handling complex relations and situation.


Hope you found this method useful! Do try it out at home and let us know in the comments section. If you have more anti-rivalry strategies do let us know! We’re sure it will be useful to other parents as well!

Article originally published on – July 29, 2015, updated on – February 16, 2017

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Ekta Sharma Bhatnagar is a writer, dreamer, and a neat-freak mom constantly trying to keep pace with her fast-growing, tech-addict kids. A proud mother of two, she is a seasoned media professional and a self-confessed Bollywood buff. Ekta has written extensively on Entertainment, Careers, Lifestyle, Interiors, and Parenting for Indiatimes.com, Education Times, Economic Times, Mumbai Mirror, Times Property, other publications and corporate websites. Follow on Twitter @ektabhatnagar

1 Comment

  • Ayesha

    August 11, 2015 - 3:22 pm

    Some more tips to add to above.
    Encourage helping one another in their work. Encourage the older one teach something to the younger one. Sometimes, I get my older child feed the younger one and they enjoy that a lot. Play games where there is an opportunity to take turns.

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