Ask AF: Alleviating Sibling Rivalry

Arguments between sisters and brothers are normal, especially in blended families, but you can limit conflict with these parenting strategies.

Q: Our three-year-old daughter still has not adjusted to our new son, two, who came home a few months ago. She was expecting a “baby,” not someone who is already walking, talking, and taking attention away from her. She will knock him over or pinch him, and sometimes says she wants him out of the family. What can we do?


A: Sibling rivalry is common when a newly adopted toddler is brought into an established family circle. The situation will normalize after a while, but in the meantime, there are some things you can do to ease the tension.

Encourage your daughter to take on the role of “important big sister.” You can set the rules about what big sisters do, such as protect, share, teach, and so on, and what they don’t do – such as bite, push, or boss around.

Remember that this is training time, so keep punishment to a minimum. Your role is to monitor, protect, and teach your children, and to do so with love, patience, and good humor. Playing together as a blended family will provide a model for sharing, and will be more effective than lecturing. Spend some extra one-on-one time with your daughter, and reward her for good behavior in all things, not just when she’s being a good big sister.

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