Siblings: Rivalry and arguments after age 5

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A child can develop a beautiful complicity with his brother or sister, but it is likely that they will also experience rivalry, which is quite normal. The smaller the age difference between a brother and sister, the more likely this feeling will appear.

The causes

Your child is building his identity throughout his childhood and adolescence. During this period, but especially from the age of 5, he compares himself to others, and jealousy can arise from this comparison. A child will experience rivalry with his brother or sister for different reasons:

  • -The child is worried about his or her place in the family and seeks the attention of his or her father or mother;
  • -They lack self-confidence;
  • -They feel a sense of injustice;
  • -They simply don’t want to share what they have.
  • -Children’s personalities are very different, which creates more conflict;

A child may also compare his or her grades with a sibling. A child may also compare his or her grades with his or her sibling. If he or she is having more difficulty learning, this could affect his or her self-esteem. It is therefore important that, as a parent, you name the strengths of each of your children: “Your brother is good at math and you are good at French dictation.”

Signs of jealousy

Of course, your children may tease or bicker for fun. Don’t worry about the slightest argument. If you sense that discussions or games are becoming too aggressive, it’s time to intervene. Persistent jealousy can show up in a variety of ways:

  • -Your child is more sullen, more sulky than usual;
  • -He or she is acting out or trying to get your attention more than before;
  • -He/she disobeys rules and gets into trouble on purpose;
  • -Regularly shows signs of impatience or aggression. For example, he bites or pushes his brother or sister.

If one or more of these behaviors persist, observe your child when he or she is with his or her sibling and try to understand what is going on in order to change his or her attitude. Your child is seeking your attention through his attitude. By pointing out his good deeds, you are giving him positive attention, and this may encourage him to behave better.


In your child’s mind…

Because their self-esteem is still developing, children aged 5 and up still need adult support in resolving conflicts. Although they are increasingly able to understand the situations they are experiencing and another person’s point of view, they still have difficulty choosing the right strategies or applying a suggested solution on their own.

Moreover, until the age of 7, the child is still focused on his own world. They are less aware of the needs of others and may have more difficulty sharing their space and possessions with their brother or sister. For this reason, conflicts before this age are still about possession of an object or toy (“Why does she have that toy and I don’t!”).

From the age of 7, the child reaches the age of reason. They open up to the world of others and learn to negotiate. They can express their point of view and understand the impact of a positive or negative action. You can more easily discuss things logically with him, help him express his feelings and encourage him to think of solutions to resolve conflicts with his brothers and sisters on his own. He is also capable of collaboration and compromise in a more difficult situation. At this age, conflicts are more about feelings of competence (“I’m not as good as him!”) than about possession.

Suggestions for reducing rivalry

To try to minimize the negative effects of sibling rivalry and keep it from getting out of hand, here’s what you can do:

Reassure each of your children of their place in your life. When a new baby brother or sister arrives, it’s important to explain to the older child that you love him or her just as much and that you’re still there for him or her, even if your baby or younger child requires more care and intervention from you. Repeat this often to comfort them;

Try to preserve one-on-one time with each of your children. Each child needs to feel special to both mom and dad, and spending time alone with you is valuable to them;

Avoid favoritism, try to be as fair as possible in the attention you give your children, but explain to them that each has different needs. You may give one child a pass because of his age or give extra time to a child who is struggling with homework;

Don’t make comparisons. Don’t use your child’s brother or sister as an example. This could create unhealthy competition between them. Every child is different. Encourage them to develop their own strengths and work on their difficulties, but don’t draw parallels between them;

Encourage your children to help each other. Don’t make the older child responsible for the younger child, but encourage everyone to help or encourage each other when they are having a hard time;

Set a good example. The child learns by imitating you. Try to resolve disputes and conflicts calmly, without shouting or shouting back and forth and without being envious.

How to handle fights and conflicts

Even so, your children will probably have moments of rivalry. This rivalry can cause friction and turn into fights and conflicts. You can help them resolve their disagreements and reduce the frequency of bickering.

Encourage your children to calmly express their emotions and thoughts in words.

Your children have a right to express their disagreements and emotions. It’s even healthy to do so. But set clear rules and be firm in enforcing them. If a child insults a sibling or is aggressive (pushing, biting, hitting), ask the child to apologize and not do it again. You can plan with the child what the consequences will be if they don’t follow the rule.

Avoid being the referee when a conflict arises, as children need to learn how to resolve their differences, but observe them when they are together. Make sure that one child does not always try to take advantage of the other.

Do not tolerate physical violence. If there is a fight, separate them, and when they have calmed down, ask them to talk about the problem and brainstorm a solution together.

Don’t take sides. If they are fighting, give consequences to both children, not just one.

When calm is restored, try to get them to think about the consequences of their behavior (e.g., conflict creates hurt or anger, makes them less likely to play together afterwards, etc.)

What if the rivalry gets out of hand?

If, despite your precautions and efforts to find solutions, the conflicts persist over a long period of time or if the disagreements are too violent, it may be useful to seek support from a behavioral specialist if necessary.

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