How to Manage Sibling Rivalry without Taking Sides

Sibling rivalry is a common issue in families. As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to manage conflict between siblings without showing favouritism or taking sides. Here are some tips for promoting harmony while being fair and objective.

Understand the Causes of Rivalry

Competition between siblings often stems from a need for attention, jealousy, or perceptions of unequal treatment. Rivalries can intensify if siblings have different backgrounds, values, or personalities that clash. Foster children may vie for your approval or act out due to insecure attachment, for example. Understanding the root causes of rivalry will help you address problems more effectively.

Set Clear Rules and Expectations

Establish fair household rules and enforce them consistently for all children. Explain the importance of respecting each other and not name-calling or physically fighting. Outline consequences for breaking the rules ahead of time, so children know what to expect. Having structure and order will help minimise conflict and teach kids to get along. 

Spend One-on-One Time with Each Child

Make sure to schedule regular one-on-one time with every child so that no one feels left out. Give each child undivided attention during the activity of their choice, whether that is playing games, reading books, or going for ice cream. This helps foster connections and prevents jealousy between siblings competing for your time.

Redirect Negative Competition into Positive Pursuits

Rather than ban all forms of competition, redirect rivalries into positive areas. Have siblings compete to see who can score the most football goals or solve maths problems the fastest. Reward good sportsmanship and focus competition on self-improvement. Healthy competition teaches resilience and discipline. Set a good example by congratulating effort, not just achievement.

Mediate Conflicts Calmly and Objectively

When disagreements arise, mediate by having each sibling explain their side respectfully while the other listens. Then, have them brainstorm solutions together, with your guidance, if needed. Stay neutral and objective rather than scolding or blaming. Make sure any consequences relate directly to each child’s problematic behaviour to avoid perceptions of favouritism.

Celebrate Cooperation and Teamwork

Notice times when siblings work well together or support each other. Praise their cooperation and emphasise how teamwork allows them to achieve more together than apart. Reinforce these positive interactions by planning group activities they must cooperate on, like games, crafts, or volunteering. Shared experiences help strengthen sibling bonds.

Get Professional Help if Needed

If rivalry escalates into bullying or violence or causes serious distress, seek help from a family therapist or child psychologist. This is especially important for foster children struggling with past trauma. Counselling can uncover root issues driving negative dynamics while teaching healthy communication and anger management techniques. 

Fostering Siblings

Agencies like may have siblings in need of a home. If you have space, it’s much better for siblings if they can stay together, as they can support each other and maintain a familial bond. 

With fairness, consistency, and proactive cooperation training, you can effectively manage sibling rivalry while maintaining strong relationships with each child. Setting ground rules, mediating conflicts neutrally, and disciplining firmly but objectively are keys to preventing favouritism. With time and guidance, siblings can form meaningful bonds built on empathy and teamwork.