sibling rivalry

7 Strategies For Coping With Sibling Rivalry

Today I am delighted to have a guest post by the lovely Ranji from Tooting Mama.  Back when we first brought the children home, I came across Ranji’s blog. I was so relieved to read her posts and discover that what we were experiencing wasn’t unique to us – reading her blog made me feel a little less alone!  Ranji adopted her children a few years before us and when I mentioned that the children were discovering sibling rivalry for the first time, she was quick to reassure me that this is perfectly normal – and for adopted children can be much more powerful than in other sibling groups!

I get it, siblings fight. But in my home, with my adopted children who are siblings, the sibling rivalry battle is very real. It’s like living through endless episodes of Horrid Henry and both my adopted children if I let them, would fight it out to the bitter end.

There are times I think my adopted children hate each other

They just can’t wait to get each other into trouble. We have a lot of snitching, sniping, telling tales, and incidents that happen when you aren’t looking making it hard to arbitrate. Those darn kids are sneaky.

I know all siblings are competitive, but with my adopted siblings, they take it to a whole new level.

Sibling rivalry and the fight for love

My adopted children use their sibling rivalry to fight for love.

They have come from a background where they wasn’t much of anything: food, clothes, care, attention, play, toys, fun. And now they have an abundance and they want it all for themselves including Mum and Dad.

And with us, the fight continues as they literally battle it out for our attention, approval and love.

We try and assure them there is plenty of love in our family.

Mummy and Daddy have an endless supply of love, it will never stop. But sometimes assurances are not enough.

How can I deal with my adopted children’s sibling rivalry?

sibling rivalry

1 I need to get  to grips with their crushingly low self-esteem

Both my kids are self-confident, mouthy, not shy at all. But they have fragile egos, fuelled by their low self-esteem. And this drives their sibling rivalry, the ongoing battle of one up manship and the battle for our love.

It doesn’t matter what it is if there is a competition it must be fought. If there’s a battle it has to be won!

It drives us mad!  

2 I need to get my children to appreciate and understand their differences

We are trying really hard to get our adopted children to understand it is their differences, their uniqueness that makes them so very special to us.

But at the moment their differences can be used in a battle to win parental love and approval.

But they have that already. They just can’t appreciate it quite yet.  See point 1.

3 I need to paying attention, really pay attention

OK, I admit I can be bad at this one.

I have to get better at listening to my adopted children, really listening, really empathising, really showing I understand their problems and issues.

But when your life is a just cacophony of noise, both kids vying for your attention, and when they don’t get it it’s meltdown, screaming and shouting. It’s not easy.

But no. I am going to have to pay attention and listen.

4 I need to give my adopted children more one-on-one time

 This is the divide and conquer strategy.

 Split them up and give them one-on-one time so they get the full, individual attention of one parent.

We haven’t done this in a while, and we need to start doing again. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

 It’s just spending quality time with one child at one time.

5 They need to play separately more often

The joy of adopting siblings is watching them play together, knowing they have each other and always will. But sometimes their relationship can get destructive when their sibling rivalry takes hold.

Getting my adopted children to play separately helps them to cool down, and explore activities that suit their characters.  

Wonder Boy has become a voracious reader, and Super Girl when she’s not teaching her cuddly toys is crafting a novel.

Then when they’re back together – hey they like each other again!

6 All’s fair in love and war

We try to be scrupulously fair and at the same time respect our children’s ages and age difference.

Wonder Boy got his first tablet at age 10. And it’s only fair that Super Girl waits til she’s 10 too. And this has and is the source of many a grudge and fight between Super Girl and Wonder Boy.

When we get to the crux of the meltdown we find out that Super Girl is insanely jealous. She wants an electronic gadget too. And doesn’t understand why she has to wait.

But hey, fair’s fair. And we’re sticking to our guns on this one.

And the big lesson here, life can sometimes seem to be unfair.

7 We all need praise, praise, praise

It was my social worker who said to me children, adopted or not, cannot get enough praise.

We were really good at this, then our bad habits crept in and I know I can be a bit negative when we are in the midst of tumultuous turmoil.

But when the praise is pointed and specific, it really does work. And it can help to turn behaviour around.

Seriously I should listen to my own advice!

Tooting Mama is a mum to two adopted children Wonder Boy and Super Girl. You can catch up with their adventures on her blog Tooting Mama.


  1. Great advice here! Another piece of advice that might sound quite odd is I would take myself out of it. I would talk to my children about how they only have one sibling and how special they should be to each other. When they fought I’d ask them what they were going to do about it – and coach them how to sort it out between themselves. They gained a stronger and stronger bond. There was less competition with me because I wouldn’t enter into it. #Blogstravaganza

    1. Author

      That’s really good advice too! I hadn’t thought about it like that but I can absolutely see that working well!! Thanks for reading 🙂 xx

  2. I can’t imagine the overwhelm children feel when they have very little and they find a loving home with everything at their finger tips. I think this is sound advice! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

  3. This is excellent advice. Especially number 4, I’m a huge believer in doing that with our boys. #Blogstravaganza

    1. Author

      I completely agree with number 4 too – I do that with my 2 little ones as well!

  4. Great tips here, the rivalry is already emerging between my two even though they are still both under three. I agree with the praise tip completely, I try to over the top praise my eldest when she does something nice for her sister.x #blogstravaganza

  5. I an lucky that I have tries really hard to make sure they understand one another and respect their differences. My problem is sibling squabbling, it gets right under my skin X #Blogstravaganza

  6. good advice, I only have one but I have a few friends struggling with this at the moment so I’ll share this with them. thanks! #Blogstravaganza

    1. Author

      That’s great – thanks so much for reading.

  7. I have two very different children and there is definite rivalry. These are great tips, I definitely need to spend more 1 on 1 time with my eldest. He is 13 and can often get forgotten when it comes to spending quality time and our relationship suffers because of it #blogstravaganza

    1. Author

      It can be so hard to find the time to do 1 on 1 but when I do it definitely pays me back in spades!!

  8. These tips are going to be so helpful in the future – I was just reading elsewhere that praise is great for behaviour management. It’s very hard to get into the mindset of a child who has had to fight for everything and now has an abundance, it must be so overwhelming. It sounds like these tips have it covered though – coming at the problem with a lot of love and understanding! #blogstravaganza

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