As a parent, your relationship with your children may influence how well they get along with their brothers and sisters.
From Romulus and Remus to Kim and Kourtney, brothers and sisters have always had their disagreements. If you grew up with siblings, you may have your own experiences of rivalry from childhood – maybe even into adulthood!
It’s easy to dismiss sibling conflict as a natural part of growing up. We’re used to seeing warring siblings in the media, and we all have our own stories, so we might not worry too much when we see our children arguing. We may even trick ourselves into believing that nothing is wrong, particularly if they seem to get on well most of the time .
But, if you’ve ever had to pull two fighting children apart, you’ll know how difficult it can be to manage conflict that’s gotten out of hand. Some arguing is, of course, unavoidable but it is important to be aware that toxic conflict and aggression between siblings can have lasting damage .
Sibling arguments are very common and may affect over a third of all children . While it’s understandable that children want to compete for your attention or just to rule the roost, it’s important to keep an eye out for sustained conflict or aggression between siblings, as this can have a negative impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing, lasting well into adolescence and affecting the relationships they form as adults.
If one of your children is being aggressive towards another, even occasionally, it’s important to address it. Seeking help early makes it easier to resolve the issue and can minimise the risk of negative effects in the future .
One of the most straightforward ways to find support is to ask your GP or paediatrician. Or, if it’s available in your area, you might find it helpful to try a parenting programme, especially one that includes tips on dealing with difficult behaviour. Your local Children’s Centre may be able to offer advice as to which programmes are available locally.
If that all sounds like too much, you may be able to help by working on your own relationship with the children. Positive parenting is associated with reduced sibling aggression. You can have a positive impact on your children’s relationships with each other by working on your relationships with your children .
Positive parenting is all about empowering your children to develop their self-esteem and feel better about their role in the family. Set guidelines for the type of behaviour you feel is acceptable, explain why these rules are in place and answer any questions they have. This balance between authority and warmth can help your children feel more confident and has been shown to improve social responsibility and decision-making .
You can learn more about this in our article on parenting styles.
As with most issues, it’s always best to take action as early as possible, working to resolve the conflict as soon as you notice it. By acting early, you can help your children boost their social skills and increase their compassion and understanding. You can also help to reduce future conflicts, so your children may have closer relationships with each other now and as they get older .
 Pickering, J., & Sanders, M. (2017). Integrating Parents' Views on Sibling Relationships to Tailor an Evidence‐based Parenting Intervention for Sibling Conflict. Family Process, 56(1), 105-125.
 Tippett, N., & Wolke, D. (2015). Aggression between siblings: Associations with the home environment and peer bullying. Aggressive Behavior, 41(1), 14-24.
 Tucker, C., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Shattuck, A. (2013). Association of Sibling Aggression with Child and Adolescent Mental Health. Pediatrics, 132 (1), 79-84.
 Baumrind, D. (1991). The Influence of Parenting Style on Adolescent Competence and Substance Use. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56–95.
 Tucker, C., & Finkelhor, D. (2017). The State of Interventions for Sibling Conflict and Aggression: A Systematic Review. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 18(4), 396-406.