Prevent Sibling Rivalry into Adulthood

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Many people with siblings have had one or more disagreements with them growing up. Our siblings are our first friends. They are the closest in age to us compared to your parents, you live under the same roof with them, and you share more than just DNA. You’re family.

While not everyone has quarreled with their siblings, many do, and sometimes it surpasses childhood into adulthood. Within families, conflict is expected no matter how big or small it is. You live with several people for years, sharing space, eating and sleeping in close proximity – a discord is bound to happen.

Sibling rivalry is described by psychology as, an intense competition between siblings. It’s common for many children to compete for their parents attention and seek their validation. When the entrance of a new sibling threatens that, a rivalry is created and parenting style may also be to blame. Conflict between siblings is a discord that dates back into biblical times. One of the most famous sibling rivalries was between Cain and Abel, and that didn’t end well for one sibling. The competitiveness, jealousy, or anger is often fueled by the parents. Surely, when you get older, the blame shouldn’t solely rest on the parents, but it’s usually differential treatment that results in the unfortunate battle.

Young adults who still have a hostile relationship with their siblings are an example of unresolved issues within the family. The worse that could happen is leaving this troubling problem untouched, and further complicating hope for a resolution in the future. Does one really want to be in their mature years angry at their sibling?

As a child, my brother and I fought a lot. It would be over anything; games, tattle-telling, mischief, not putting the toilet seat down, or eating the last ice pop. He would get in trouble if I did something wrong, and he rightfully hated that. My sister hated that she had to hand down some of her clothes to me. I couldn’t play outside unless my brother was supervising and I hated that too. We all had our issues. When it was time for family memories, my brother and sister always had more baby photos than I. That really bothered me for a long time and my mom blamed the reason for that being my finger sucking habit, which didn’t help at all. The fights among us eventually decreased as we got older, but between my sister and I, we still had some issues. We would end up fighting and not talk for weeks. When my mom inserted her opinions about our feud, it didn’t help. She always compared our attitudes, and would say I was the most stubborn between the two of us. As we got older the petty fighting stopped, but the rivalry still lingered, it was just subtle.

If you and a sibling can’t get along as adults, it’s time for some intervention. One size doesn’t fit all, but a few years ago, some long and hard thinking led me to decide that I could no longer stand having constant issues with my sister. It reached too far and I was sick of it. These tips below helped me gain control:

Acknowledge the Problem

Once you know there’s an issue and you want to challenge it, you’re off to the right start. This is not going to work if you’re in denial. You have to start by being honest with yourself, and knowing that just because you may be able to have conversations with your sibling(s) or be in the same room, does not mean that there are no deep rooted issues.

Acknowledge the Problem with your Sibling(s) of Issue

You’ve admitted the problem alone, now it’s time to approach the problem with the other party. This will only be very successful if your sibling can admit an issue too. If not, there’s still hope. Talk about the problem from your perspective and show concern that you feel there’s unsolved tension between you.

Spill the Beans

Time for all those years of backed up anger to release. Don’t hold your tongue, but be tactful and to prevent causing a further wedge. Speak one at a time, don’t cut the other off, and discuss all the issues you have from the little ones to the more serious ones.


Explain the hurt the rivalry caused. What bothered you the most? How did it make you feel? Talk about what you wished could’ve happened, and why you want to come to good terms.

Get your (Unbiased) Parents Involved

They brought you all into the world, and in many cases parents are usually the cause of a rivalry among siblings. If favoritism and comparison was one of the main origins of the rivalry, it’s time to call mom or dad. Be careful with this as it may resort to the same old thing. Mom or dad may feel justified in their feelings and this won’t solve anything. If you fear your parents won’t help, try seeking advice from close family members that know you and your sibling very well. It’s important that they too are unbiased.

Talk Positive

After getting all the negative issues out, begin ending the discussion with what you do like about the other, nothing backhanded. Even if there are only a few things you can name, there must be certain things you admire or want to admire in your sibling. This must end with positivity.


It may take time to heal. As with most broken or scarred relationships, you shouldn’t rush and expect things to be dandy right away. Give it time and if you must, meet up with your sibling every now and then to discuss improvements you’re both making.

You can be at war with your sibling for a long time, but it’s never too late to fix it – which you should do. The bond between siblings is one of the most amazing friendships humans can have, and it is too important to let it waste away. If problems cannot be solved amongst yourselves, it is recommended that you seek family counseling. But if neither works and your sibling has proven to be very detrimental to your well-being, perhaps it is the best option to cut ties with them.

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