Why do siblings fight? 5 lesser known reasons and tips to help parents deal with this

It is no secret that siblings fight. It’s also no secret that parents get tired of bickering and fighting between them. I am yet to meet a parent who didn’t wish that their kids could get along and be friendly to each other at all times.

As idealistic as this sounds, siblings will never get along all the time and neither will your children.

But it is important to understand underlying reasons. It will help you take action before their relationship turns toxic. They don’t hate each other from birth. But often parents set the ground for an ugly and hateful relationship among siblings.

Not paying enough attention to the regular fights can lead to long-term damage to their relationship. It may shape into sibling bullying and later on morph as a rivalry.

Siblings fight because they are angry, frustrated, hurt, disappointed or plain simple bored. They fight because they don’t know how to express themselves. They don’t have tools or the wisdom to get the other person work with them. They are ill equipped to come up with solutions that all those involved can agree on. And above all, they fight because they are oblivious to its impact on their relationship.

In short, kids fight for the same reasons adults fight.

But as parents, we need to first learn about what makes kids feel frustrated, hurt or disappointed. Once we discover the underlying cause of these emotions, we can work our way to help our kids with tools and wisdom to deal with their emotions..

The fight may be over a toy or a TV remote or one messed up other’s sand castle. Or any of the zillion things they share by the virtue of being a part of one family. The underlying emotions are always the same.

No matter what the reason is or how often it happen siblings fight.

The first step to dealing with sibling conflict is to understand common causes of uncomfortable emotions. Siblings fight when they are hurt and disappointed by frequent comparison by parents. They often want the same things at the same time, often only to see who wins the power game this time. Kids end up fighting because they have not been taught any better way to get want. They have no idea how to negotiate for themselves. The only way they understand is to get into a shouting match or a pulling match or call the referee to solve the impasse. Kids don’t understand the way these fights affect their relationship and they see no reason to find better way to deal with it.

But we as parents need to see how these conflicts will shape their relationship with each other and with the world. Today we talk in details about each of these reasons and what can we do to help our kids get through these.

1) Comparison by parents

Comparing the two kids is the biggest underlying reason for sibling rivalry. This often models into fights – some small and others not-so-small. When we compare kids, they are more likely to resent the other person. Such resentment is difficult to go away if it persists for years.

Many parents tend to support the younger or weaker sibling. The kids find this lack of appreciation as unfair. This unjust behavior shades his world view as he grows into an adult

Many parents pick their favorite based on the ability of the child. Such households celebrate performance and discourage failure. Such kids see only conditional love for themselves. They will be loved only with their accomplishments. Such kids grow to be seeking validation at all points.

The other sibling always second guesses himself. She misses the love that is so readily showered on the other.

This resentment morphs into frequent fights.

Then the fight for the remote is not really about the remote, but a revenge for unfair treatment by parents.

2) Desire to be the master

Most frequent type of fights among sibling is a power struggle. It could be about who gets to play with the teddy or whose choice is preferred when going to dine out. Kids see each of these situations as a win or lose battle.

Who wins a fight is all that matters to them.

This kind is also the most common reason for fight among adults.

This presents a brilliant opportunity to teach them how to deal with power struggles.

The most effective way is to help them see that by getting into power struggle they both lose and nobody wins. Its not a fight but a negotiation.

The end goal of the resolution is to come to a solution that both the parties agree on. And the solution should leave each of their dignity intact.

3) Inability to express themselves

Inability to express themselves often converts a misunderstanding to huge fight. 1 year old may be too young to say he wants to play with the castle. She in turn demolishes the castle made by 3 year old in an attempt to touch it – and there begins the fight.

Inability to express anger is true for also the ones who hit to tell that they are angry – no matter what the age.

We need to model that while feeling anger is acceptable, violence is not.

We need to teach effective ways to first acknowledge and then express their emotions in socially acceptable manner.

4) Don’t know how to Negotiate for Themselves

Kids fight when they are not able to come to a solution that is in their favor. They often want same thing at the same time. From simple things about who gets to be on the swing first, to who get to sit in the front seat.

Parents often set a wrong example by playing the role of judge and decide for them. These are good opportunities to teach them the power of influence. They can decide to take turns, give the other person other incentive to have their way this time or anything else that does not involve brute force or intimidation.

Give them the options and time to conclude on these options. These fights could prove to be great training opportunities for their adult life.

5) Ignore the Value of their Relationship

This is true for kids as well as adults. We fight when we don’t value the relationship. When kids hurt each other – physically or verbally, they are prioritizing themselves over their relationship.

The repeated fights could lead to pattern where one sibling comes across as villain and other as victim. The minor fights turn into rivalry.

Also these kids grow up to see themselves either as victim or villain, which affects their world view adversely.

We, as parents need to teach them the value of their relationship. Else we will raise selfish individuals incapable of looking at the other point of view.

6) Uncomfortable with their Differences

Sibling fights irrespective of gender – brothers fights and so do sisters. They fight irrespective of which gender is younger or older. They fight irrespective of their age difference. It is often common is siblings to point out at how the other person is different. They often blame their differences for their fights.

It is therefore important to teach kids to respect each other’s differences and be sensitive towards any special needs. This way we help them appreciate differences as they interact with more people. They need to taught to support their peers no matter how different they are. This could be our chance to reduce the prevailing apathy in our worlds.


There is no instant way to resolve sibling conflicts and make them friends for life.

But taking no notice of their fights can set the ground for sibling bullying.

We need to build our wisdom and understand deeper causes of unrest among our kids.

Its is a long process but is worth it. We can approach these conflicts as coaching opportunities. Opportunities to teach our kids emotional intelligence and influence.


Association of Sibling Aggression With Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Sibling Relationships and Influences in Childhood and Adolescence