Understanding Sister and Brother Relationships: Child Behavior

Learn About Sibling Relationships and Preventing Sibling Rivalry

Brother and sister relationships are complex.  Love, competition, friendship, and jealousy all overlay each other to create complex emotional reactions to family issues and situations.  You toss into the mix that most children are not emotionally mature and you have a potential time bomb walking around in your house.  

  1. How far apart in age are your children?  Children who are close in age are likely to be more competitive and fight for toys and privileges or to be more physical with each other.  However, when they are further apart in age they are less likely to fight, though the older child will likely be extremely bossy and can overpower the younger one. 
  2. How old are your children?  Siblings relate differently depending on their ages.  Younger children are more likely to act out with violence or temper tantrums in jealousy or envy because they can't voice their emotions.  Children that are around six to eight years old tend to be bossy and Sister tickling her brotherdemanding to their siblings.  At ages nine through twelve, they are typically very competitive and have little patience or respect for younger siblings.  However, there is usually some behavior relief in the teenage years and fighting/bickering tends to be over minor issues that teenagers work out amongst themselves without involving parents. . 
  3. Go to your local bookstore.  Your local bookstore has many titles that will help you to understand.  A few recommendations include Brothers and Sisters: Developmental, Dynamic, and Technical Aspects of the Sibling Relationship by Salman Akhtar (Editor) and Selma Kramer (Editor), Sisters and Brothers All These Years: Taking Another Look at the Longest Relationship in Your Life by Lillian S. Hawthorne and Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
  4. If you have a special needs child, expect the relationships to be different.  Feelings of guilt, protectiveness and sensitivity are often combined with envy and jealousy, usually because parents need to spend more time and energy with the special needs child.  Two great books about this kind of relationship include Special Siblings:  Growing Up With Someone With a Disability by Mary McHugh and Being the Other One:  Growing Up with a Brother or Sister Who Has Special Needs by Kate Strohm.
  5. Figure out how you're going to deal with sibling rivalry.  Popular tips about sibling rivalry include:
  • Avoid comparisons.
  • Don't take sides when mediating a dispute or breaking up a fight.
  • Acknowledge feelings, especially negative ones.
  • Listen to your children.
  • Give love, treats and privileges based on individual needs, not on making everything exactly fair.  No matter how hard you try for everything to be exactly the same, children will find something that's not fair.
  • Allow them to settle minor disagreements, but break up or halt any physical or violent behavior.
  • If things become extremely emotional, give them space to separate and cool down before dealing with disputes.


Share this article!

Follow us!

Find more helpful articles: