Are your children fighting, bickering, or telling on each other? One moment, your kids may be playing nicely together and the next minute there are tears, and even fights—which could be signs of sibling rivalry. While this may be inevitable in most families with children, you can take steps to manage such situations.

Understand what is fuelling the rivalry

Firstly, try to understand the underlying cause for such behaviours. Often, it is not about a particular toy or incident, but is instead about siblings competing for your love and respect. It can also be due to birth order, conflicting personalities, or family dynamics. A big change in the family could lead to conflict, such as when divorce happens or there’s a new addition like a baby in the family. These may lead your children competing for parental attention.

And as your children get older, sibling rivalry may not go away, but how they interact may change. Younger children may fight physically, but teens are more likely to have verbal arguments.

Prevent the rivalry

There are ways to nip it in the bud and prevent sibling rivalry from becoming full blown.

It begins by showing love to each of your children. Try to spend time along with each child, where time is spent doing what interests your child. For instance, have an active outing or game with your sporty child, whereas a visit to a bookstore or library may suit your little bookworm.

Set some family rules, to ensure that everyone understands what is acceptable behaviour and what is not tolerated. For example, hitting, name-calling, criticising and mean remarks may be out of bounds.

And when you see good behaviour, to call out and praise such behaviours—such as when your children play well together or help each other out.

Building a convivial and peaceful that is the norm will help a long way towards building a harmonious home environment.

Manage the rivalry

As parents, we can make a difference to help reduce conflict in the family and encourage peace within the family. Parents can model how to solve problems and resolve conflicts.

For example, model how to take turns and use phrases like "Can I please play with this?" and "I'm still playing with this, but will let you know when I am finished."

If your child is young, they may have trouble expressing themselves. Help them to put into words their feelings and frustrations, such as "I feel angry that Ben took my toy without asking." Being able to express how they feel can be the first step to diffusing that tense situation.

Most importantly, try to listen to your children. Having siblings can be a frustrating experience. Acknowledge how your children feel, and try to talk about and work out any issues.

Finally, here are some other ways to manage sibling rivalry, and tips to keep in mind when handling conflicts between the kids.