Sibling Rivalry - what's normal and what isn't?

When to Seek Help

A little squabbling between siblings — brothers and/or sisters — is normal – and in most cases, unavoidable! It is part of human nature to want to compete for precious resources- such as our parents’ love and affection. Furthermore, sibling rivalry is not necessarily a bad thing. Children who learn to deal with disagreement and jealousy within a loving family may be better able to resolve conflict in the real world as grown-ups.

On the other hand, strong sibling rivalry that does not resolve by itself over time can become a serious issue that may lead to behavioral or mental health problems in children and young people, if left unchecked.

Picture of annoyed young girl trying to take an item from older sibling.
It is common for siblings to want to play with the same thing, even when there are plenty of other toys around!

How to decide when too far is too far?

If the issue seems to have become chronic (long-standing, stagnant or recurring) and it is not improving – or perhaps it is worsening with the passing of time – this may be a strong indication that professional help or advice is needed.

Another way to help decide whether you should seek professional help is to consider – is the sibling rivalry affecting one or more children in a negative way? Is it making it hard for them to do everyday things like study and function at home? Does it cause them (or you) significant stress on a daily or semi-daily basis? Is there a risk of serious physical injury or harm occurring to one of your children due to size difference – for example, in the case of a 5-year old fighting with a 2 -year old?

If you answered ’yes’ to any of the above questions, you may want to consider seeking professional help with a specialist child/adolescent counsellor.

Read about what distinguishes someone as a child therapist compared to a regular therapist in the FAQ section.


  1. on sibling rivalry
  2. RNZ article on tackling sibling rivalry