I have two baby boys with an age gap of almost 4 years. And Oh My God, the fights between the two are unstoppable. So, I became curious as to why they are always fighting and Do Not get along for more than 2 minutes. The questions that popped into my mind were; Am I doing something wrong? Is someone else in our family playing the role of pitting them against each other? Is my husband doing something that may be creating an imbalance? Is it really sibling rivalry? And last but not least what can I do to create a balance between the two?

The Sibling Rivalry – Creating Balance Between Siblings

I have two baby boys with an age gap of almost 4 years. And Oh My God, the fights between the two are unstoppable. So, I became curious as to why they are always fighting and Do Not get along for more than 2 minutes. The questions that popped into my mind were; Am I doing something wrong? Is someone else in our family playing the role of pitting them against each other? Is my husband doing something that may be creating an imbalance? Is it really sibling rivalry? And last but not least what can I do to create a balance between the two?

Sibling Rivalry

I got a ton of advice from family and friends. Most said it’s just sibling rivalry and it is completely normal. But I wasn’t satisfied. To speak the truth, I have always been super conscious about keeping my boys at an equal level because I have been through the “sibling rivalry” and it was nothing but a horrible experience that skewed my mental health for the most part.

The Sibling Relationship

Children are like blank canvases. Although they do have their personality it’s a parent’s job to keep a close eye on them and their relationships. The early age is an extremely important phase of a child’s life. I can say this with surety that everything that’s going around the child deeply affects them. They might not be aware of it at that moment but it adds up over time and takes place somewhere in their unconscious mind.

Apart from the parental relationship, the relationship with siblings plays a giant role in shaping the concept of relationships itself. From early on in a child’s life all these experiences shape how they would act and react in society. For me, a comparison was always drawn between me and my sister who is 5 years younger than me. And from what I gathered, it was a mix of both good and bad things but I stuck on the negatives and it still affects me sometimes.

So, What is Sibling Rivalry?

Simply put – Sibling rivalry is a power struggle between brothers and sisters. At its core, it develops even before the second child is born. Siblings tend to fight or compete over their parents’ attention, love, and affection. This can be done intentionally by one or all siblings. However, mostly it’s unintentional. Where siblings try to upscale themselves by pulling down the other in some way just to prove how they are better than the others.

It’s not rare to not have sibling rivalry but the cases might be very few. As I said, sibling rivalry can be unintentional and the presence of it may not be agreed upon by its participants. In either of the cases, once the rivalry finds its roots the slightest bit, the rift is in place, and then it’s only a downhill run. You might be thinking but why? Here are some common reasons:

Reasons That May Create Or Escalate Sibling Rivalry

While many would agree that sibling rivalry is rather a normal part of growing up with siblings. There are a handful of factors that can affect the relationship and make the rivalry stand out or worse.

1.  Comparing one sibling to other

Every child is different even in the same household. Comparing them is not the best choice because then you are pitting them against each other. My two boys are opposites of each other. I noticed that a couple of my family members were comparing them again and again. This led to my boys feeling like they are in a competition and they have to outdo the other hence affecting their relationship.

2.  Talking ill about the differences with them

It is normal for parents to have a favorite child (for me it’s my eldest). If I keep on talking ill about my youngest to my eldest son it will affect their relationship. Yes sometimes parents seem to blurt it out and they say things out loud to one of their kids about the others. But this should never be an all-time thing. After you have made the blunder, you should set the records clear and tell your kid that you love them all, and whatever you said you didn’t mean it.

3.  Separating them again and again

While it may seem like the obvious choice when the two are fighting like crazy, it is not preferable. Separating the siblings is another way of drawing differences between them. It will develop the notion that to be happy and at peace, they have to be separated from each other. Or the “sibling” is the trouble because when they are alone all is fine but as soon as they get together with the siblings, things start to mess up.

4.  Preferring one over the other

You may have done it; I have for sure done it. Sometimes, it is necessary to prefer one especially when they are getting bullied by their brothers or sisters. Like I tend to support my younger one more as he is only 2 years old (doesn’t act like it). Because of this, my eldest one thinks I don’t love him as much. While sometimes it is okay to support one but it should not be usual practice. This projects partiality and ignites jealousy among siblings.

5.  Getting too involved in the fights

Let them be because becoming too involved in their matters may create differences. Now you may be thinking but how can you leave them alone when they are fighting like monsters – this may be an exception. But for the most part, the bickering is what becomes irritating for the parents and siblings involved. Convey that they have to solve their differences on their own when they come running to you.

6.  Blaming one over and over

Never do this one. It is the opposite of preferring one over the other but much worse. It sprouts hatred, jealousy, anger, and so many other negative feelings in the child being blamed again and again. Remember that it takes two to fight therefore holding a specific child responsible for the chaos is the worst for the sibling relationship, your relationship, and the child’s mental health.

So How Can You Create A Balance Between Siblings?

Ok. Now we know – what not to do but what are we supposed to do then? I know it seems like a joke but there are ways you can improve sibling relationships and reduce or (if you are lucky) eradicate the concept of sibling rivalry from your home.

1.  Set Ground Rules

A house without rules is a house of chaos. Having a proper set of rules for acceptable behavior is a necessity for every household. Tell your kids loud and clear that there should be no hitting, no cursing, no yelling, no name-calling, no door slamming, or misbehaving. Also, ask your kids if they have any suggestions – as well as discuss the consequences of breaking any rules.

2.  “Everything Has To Be Fair”

Fair and Square rule doesn’t apply to homes with kids. Don’t let your kids believe everything will always be fair and equal. Teach them that it is okay if one child needs your attention more. This doesn’t mean that you hate the other. This is a commonly found case in households with kids who have an age gap. The younger ones usually need more time whereas the elder translates this as less love, less care, and less affection. Hence, teaching your children about why you are giving more to one may make them understand a little bit more.

3.  Make a schedule

If your kids are fighting over tv, games, and toys, making a schedule is a great idea. Siblings with an age gap have different interests and there is very little that they enjoy together. Like my six-year-old likes to watch Animal Planet whereas my two-year-old is only interested in Baby Shark. On the other hand, both love to play the piano. To cure the situation, I have designed a schedule that they can see on the fridge and they know when each has activity time and don’t fight over the tv or the toys.

4.  Recognize When Kids Need Time Apart

They don’t have to be together round the clock to develop a good relationship. Forcing the elder one to tag along with the younger at whatever they do isn’t justifiable. It is completely normal for kids to need some time for just themselves and it’s healthy for them. Like playing with toys on their own without sharing. Or just being able to enjoy their activities without worrying about the other sibling.

5.  Figure Out What The Conflict Is About

Have you noticed a pattern? Do they fight more when they are bored or tired? Are they always fighting over a toy? Or is it around a particular person or situation?

Once you understand the factors that may be inflicting the fights, you can try to address those issues to reduce sibling rivalry. For example, you can spend one-on-one time with each of your children to help them communicate better without masking their true feelings with anger and frustration.

6.  Teach How To Appreciate Each Other’s Differences

Every human being is different and the same applies to children as well. Siblings, especially, those with an age gap have different interests which can naturally result in conflicts. It is important to teach them about respecting those differences and loving each other irrespective of the differences. You can also set up a system where they can have their personality and still work together and find a common ground of interest for them to enjoy.

7.  Have Them Team Up

One of the best ways to improve a relationship is to team up. You can have the kids either do a project or some chores best for their age and abilities and make them work in a team. This will help them build a sense of cooperation and work together towards a common goal. You can also appoint a leader. It doesn’t have to be the eldest one always. Sometimes give a chance to the younger ones to lead the team – just for fun.

8.  Work On Their Listening Skills

The ability to listen and process what someone is saying – with patience, and an essential life skill. Developing this skill in kids from a young age helps them to learn about other people and empathize with them. It enables them to think outside the box and process a situation from a different point of view. Always encourage your children to listen when the other is speaking and try to understand their opinion as well regardless of how different it may be.

9.  Teach them how to respectfully disagree

It is completely normal for people to not see eye to eye in several matters. Like I mentioned earlier, people are different and they have different ideas and mindsets. Teaching your kids about respecting each other’s opinions whilst disagreeing is just basic life. Even though their opinions differentiate, they don’t have to get into the nasty stuff like name-calling, hitting, yelling, etc to prove their point.

10.  Focus on family bonding and respect

Make time for fun family activities because the families who have fun together are less likely to fall into conflicts. Teach your kids to treat each other how they wish to be treated – with respect and kindness. Remind your kids that the loving family has is unshakable and irreplaceable. There’s nothing like a relationship with your family including the siblings. And together they are stronger. While they may not understand these deep words but it’s worth repeating periodically.

A Word From Me

Conflict is a part of every human relationship. Given that children are still learning how to manage their emotions, it is okay for them to make mistakes. As a parent, you should focus on building a strong relationship with each child so that they are secure from your end and then help them to make their sibling relationship better.

It is very common for siblings with an age gap to have conflicts. However, if you have no difference in their behavior towards each other after applying all that we have discussed in this article then it’s best to consult a professional. 


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