Sibling Rivalry: How to to survive daily conflict

Written by Shawna Sullivan
Published on June 10, 2022

Without notice, a shrieking cry from upstairs fills the house. I brace myself against the kitchen counter waiting to see if the issue will sort itself out among the children or if the escalation deems my presence necessary for a resolution.

Open doors are slammed. Multiple cries are heard. Angry accusations are projected. 

“Again!?” I grumble silently in my head. The assumption that I’m needed upstairs to mediate is eventually affirmed. 

“Keep it together,” I whisper as if I’m the coach talking to a player approaching a pivotal play. I make my way up the stairs, intentionally lingering on each step to contemplate the anticipated dialogue. 

Let me guess: the prized Lego creation was destroyed, the favorite marker was taken without permission, or perhaps one acquired more of something than the other and injustice burns.

We can relate, can’t we? Sibling rivalry is no different than adult conflict, and we surely don’t need to have more than one child to relate. In any relationship, when an object of desire is challenged through a game of power, preference, or piety, conflict ensues. 

For many, the slower days of summer are upon us as well as the realization that slow days mean more time together without the usual distractions. Considering this reality, here are three tips to survive sibling rivalry throughout the summer and beyond. 

Three tips to survive sibling rivalry

1. Ask for understanding. 

Throughout the Old and New Testament, we see how God engages the hearts of his children with questions. One of the most memorable examples is displayed in the book of Job, where God loves his hurting heart with a series of questions beginning with, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4 ESV).

When Jesus walks with his disciples, he is first asking questions to prod exploration of their own hearts before moving on to the next task of the day. For example, in Matthew 8:26, before resolving the surrounding chaos, Jesus asks his disciples, “Why are you afraid?”

We can conclude from these examples, among others, that it would serve us well to have questions ready for moments of conflict, both to steady our own emotions as well as allow each child the opportunity to be seen and heard. Allow these questions to serve as a helpful starting point to steer your child away from accusations and hurt feelings toward forgiveness and reconciliation: 

Can you help me understand what happened? How did that make you feel? What is one way you can help make this right? What is one thing you could do differently next time to keep it from escalating?

As our children wrestle through their answers, many times the surface issue lessens in importance, and the light exposes the heart behind it all. 

2. Establish a mission. 

The number of times the value of work is mentioned in the bible is astounding. 

Proverbs 16:27 says, “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.” In translations like the Living Bible, that word worthless is translated as idle. When we are idle with our time, opportunities for conflict arise. 

If you are finding your family in a never-ending cycle of arguing and bickering, it may be time to establish a larger mission. When summer is solely filled with entertainment and expectation, our children lose sight that faithful stewardship of our time matters, and our creator designed us to work and to create.

One way to counterbalance the rest time is to give them anchor points throughout their day that consist of work and accomplishment. To incorporate a reading challenge or a consistent rhythm of outdoor time followed by craft time is a way to take the focus off one another and manage expectations.

Another idea is to give your child a job that helps the family flourish. This can be anything from folding socks to mowing the lawn. Getting them to work together on a project, like yard work or sorting the garage, is the perfect way to remind them you are all on the same team and each of their roles in the family is valued. 

When our minds are focused on a mission and hands busy with a job, conflict lessens, and purpose prevails. 

3. Consider it joy. 

From the beginning in Genesis 1, the only aspect of creation God declared “not good” was the fact that man was alone, so he created Eve and eventually family. 

With every incident of conflict or moment of frustration, it is critical to remember that this is the exact environment God knew was necessary for us to grow in dependence upon him. In fact, he deemed it good. As we embrace the blessing of sibling rivalry, while acknowledging the curse of the fall, our hearts rely upon the Father in greater dependence for wisdom time and time again. 

Consistent conflict in relationships is also continually developing endurance in us. As followers of Christ and parents, we desire to be image bearers to our children, and we cannot be made in his image without joining him in suffering and conflict. 

James 1:2–5 implores us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

Our families act as a mirror of sanctification along life’s way, revealing our true hearts and increasing our reliance on our heavenly Father. Therefore, may we learn to rejoice even in times of conflict, knowing God will use it for good in your heart and mine, to shape us into his likeness, all while developing our endurance for the road ahead.   

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Shawna Sullivan

Shawna Sullivan is a mother and home educator to four children. After 13 years, she traded the hustle and bustle of New York City for the suburbs of north Texas. She will never take a backyard, time with family, air conditioning, or her own laundry room for granted. She writes, speaks, and creates practical resources to help parents find purpose and joy in every season. 

Shawna and David, her husband of 18 years, also recently launched a curriculum encouraging and equipping others to view their life through the lens of investing. Passionate about faithful stewardship, her bi-monthly newsletter is filled with practical application and wisdom for navigating this one life well. Connect with Shawna on Instagram for a peek into her real life, and grab your free resources for parenting on her website at


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