Best friends, worst enemies – how to handle sibling rivalry

Sibling interaction is one of the first social contexts children encounter. Rivalry is often fueled by competition for attention from people that they regard as influential or significant, such as parents or caregivers. Over time, as their circle of influence widens, such behaviour extends to impressing their peers, and both physical and relational aggression are expressed in a larger community of friends.

Parents play a significant role in role modeling right, non-aggressive behavior as well as providing reassurance to address insecurities and attention needs. Additionally, setting expectations and coaching children on how to resolve conflict in a healthy and constructive manner, both within and outside of the home are healthy tools for resolution.

Relational aggression is not uncommon among siblings in close and loving families. If parents simply punish one child without properly addressing issues, it can breed resentment, which can result in even greater anguish in both parties.

Read more and my perspective at “Best friends, worst enemies – how to handle sibling rivalry” by Balvinder Sandhu excerpt and link below:


SINGAPORE — Siblings. They can be the best of friends at times, and the worst of enemies at others.

It is common to see siblings teasing each other and competing for their parents’ attention, or even when they go on to adulthood.

But while most parents dismiss this as just another facet of having more than one child, research has shown that if not tended to, the rivalry could degenerate into bullying, and take a toll on their children’s mental health.

Read the full article by Balvinder Sandhu at


More about the 4Cs Approach to Conflict Resolution during instances of relational aggression.

Pause for a minute, a day or even a week. Plan for a time to revisit this learning opportunity when you and all parties involved are in a calmer state.

In the heat of the moment, our first reaction as parents may not always be the right one. It is helpful to give ourselves time and space to set aside our own biases, inclination to take sides or be the “saviour” and peace-maker. When we approach situations in a calmer state, we are better able to access the wisdom within us to role model non-aggression in dispute resolution.

Return to your family’s core values and have a discussion around which ones this dispute relates most to.

One of our family’s core values is respect. Being respectful towards others encompasses accepting our differences, listening, appreciating each other’s feelings and being there for one another, even during moments with difficult emotions. Incidents such as conflict gives us as a family, a wonderful learning opportunity to apply the value of respect to specific and relatable situations.

Engage your parent role as a coach and mediator during dispute resolution.

This means being fully present in a room as a neutral third party, creating a safe space for curiosity and conversation, yet holding the intention to arrive at mutual understanding. Ask age-appropriate, open questions to allow parties to explore “what’s really going on here?” and “what is behind this behaviour” offers the opportunity for self-awareness and empathy to unfold. This may even involve role playing or presenting hypothetical scenarios. Be prepared to hold silence, especially with adolescents.

Close the conversation with helping them make connections.

Effective dispute resolution often results in a feeling that both sides have won through greater self-awareness, mutual understanding and clarity. As the parent, we can help children connect the dots between their feelings, thoughts and actions. This develops their ability to come to their own realisations of themselves and others, so they can better self-regulate and resolve disagreements in the future.

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