Siblings Who Compete for Moms Attention..

Updated on May 24, 2008
C.V. asks from Mason, OH
10 answers

I have two girls, almost 10 and 8. They are so competitive w/ the attention they get from me. I have always very consciously given the girls equal attention, and love them both very equally. I have always explained that to them, that I do not favor one over the other ever - and that my love for them will never waiver if I am spending time with the other. While they get along very well for the most part, it is when they are fighting for my attention that they start to fight. Whether it's who is sitting next to me on the couch, or who gets to help me plant the garden - who gets to get the mail for me or who gets the "last kiss" for the night. They sometimes ask me, "Mommy who is the better artist?" Or swimmer, or singer - or whatever. I always tell them, "Both"; or "I am not playing this game because I will never choose one or the other, you are both great". I've even witnessed how they try to get the other in trouble so that I get angry at the other. I feel like they are lacking in self-confidence in my love for them, and that breaks my heart because I have ALWAYS showed them a ton of affection and love. I'm not sure how to deal with this situation - I have tried talking to them about it directly (they are both very aware that they do this), and have tried rocks-paper-scissors for who does what when (and then there are hurt feelings), I've tried using a timer, and have tried taking turns. The issues just doesn't go away... so I think I am handling it all wrong. I need to nip this constant competition in the bud FAST, and would love some advise.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Columbus on

I have two girls as well and go through the very same situations. I now have tried to use pieces of paper with a dark circle. Each time if they compete for something we use a container with 4 pieces of paper and who ever draws the dark circle on the paper gets their choice. The issues don't go away but it helps taking care of the situation at hand for the moment. I love to see what others suggest. :)

More Answers



answers from Indianapolis on

Hi there,

I have 3 sisters, one 18m older, one 18m younger and one 8 yrs younger - and a brother 15 yrs younger
At any rate, growing up, the competition was so bad that we would "warn" our friends that they weren't allowed to talk to or play with any other sister, only ME, and we all did it.
We wouldn't share toys, we competed for our parents etc.

Our parents continued to instill the values in us of love and caring for one another.

Now that we're all in our 30's I can tell you that we are BEST FRIENDS, and have been this way for a long time, really since we started marrying around our 30's. When my oldest had a miscarriage we were all there by her side.
When my younger sister went through a divorce she had us to lean on financially and emotioanlly.

I think if you continue to instill in them the importance of closeness and respect, they will one day get it, when they're older, they won't get it now. Unless there's hardship, like when my parents got divorced, we were 13, me 11, 9 and 3.
It also helped us to get closer and to value our family.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Steubenville on

I also think Julie gave some good advice. I really like her tattle-tale solution. Most siblings compete for their parents' attention, and most siblings fight simply because they're siblings. It doesn't have much at all to do with how equal your attention is to them. Your daughters fight because it brings them more attention from you. If you ignore them while they're bickering with each other, there won't be much motivation left for them to bicker. I have eight children, and some of them do complain about who gets to sit near me, and I simply say, "It's so-and-so's turn, you've been able to sit near me a lot lately." I believe it does them good to learn that they can't always have what they want.

Besides, in a few years, when both your girls are teenagers, they won't be fighting over you so much as fighting over boys! So, maybe you should enjoy this time while you can!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Wayne on

I truly think you're overanalyzing this situation. I have a son and a daughter who are 15 months apart, and I hear "I want to sit by her" and all the other things everyday also. It has nothing to do with you not showing them enough attention or love, or their lack of self confidence. I believe it's just them, being siblings. All siblings do this. They just like to compete with eachother. My kids even say "I want to go to bed first!" when it's time for me or my husband to put them to bed. It cracks me up, that sibling rivalry. It's healthy though, in my opinion. It gets them taught how to stand up for themselves, and how to handle people outside the home who are bullyish or just have bratty attitudes.

All I do when they do these things is try to stay out of it. When I sit down, and they're fighting, literally wrestling on the ground to fight to be the first one to sit next to me, I simply move into the center of the couch and unless they're in danger, I let them fight it out. If you read books on parenting like I do, a lot of them say to stay out of sibling fights. I just say "I don't want to get involved in your arguing, kids" and I walk away. If it gets REALLY elevated, I will take both of their arms, lead them to the center of the livingroom, make them sit on the floor while facing each other, and make them stare at each other until I say okay, which is usually when they have started hysterically laughing at each other. Other than that, I let my kids fight their own battles with each other, and to NEVER take sides. As a matter of fact, I've now started implementing a consequence for tattling so that they learn how to fight their own battles. When one tattles, they both get their piggybanks and bring them to me. The tattler gets a coin taken from his/her bank and put into the sibling's bank. They hate that!!! If it really bothers you to hear them fight, you better start leaving the room to avoid it, because my sister and my brother are both 17 months apart from me, me being the middle child, and we fought hardcore right up into middle school! My mom would just say "leave me out of it!"

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I have two sons, ages 33 and 37. They love each other dearly, are tremendously close in many ways and are still competitive and judgmental of each other. And they still "recruit" me to agree about their criticism of each other.

I still get the same reaction you are describing - that somehow I have failed because they are so critical of one another.

When I take a step back, I realize that they were not lacking in love (nor are they now), even though I was a working mom. They are good men, productive, successful professionals and people, ethical, bright, funny and loving.

So being rivals hasn't hurt them.

What's very funny is that they criticize each other for exactly the same trait - talking so much about what troubles them that they forget to share what is working well for them.

My advice - don't work so hard to make it just right for them. Your reaction reinforces their demanding more of you at that moment. Remember they're wrong if they suggest you're failing them in some way - you are a loving, giving mom. Take deep breaths (I mean that literally) and try to reduce your reactivity to the game they both play. You're not damaging their little psyches!

A little about me

Married 42 years, about to become a grandmother for the first time and crazy about both my sons.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

This may sound old fashioned and rather harsh but:
Don't let either one sit next to you on the couch. Pick out a chair you like and sit there, that will end that competion.
Make up a chore list for the girls for each week. One gets the mail, the other helps clear the table. The next week switch the chores. Make sure they have equal chores. Why can't they both help in garden? That would solve the garden issue.
Children love to bicker, it is part of being siblings. It might help for you to ignore it unless it gets physically or really verbally abusive. Should that happen send them both to separate rooms for 10 or 15 minutes and just go on about your business. You don't have to explain why they are in time out after initially explaining what will happen if they continue to bicker over you. Just off to time out and no further discussion about it.
You can also make it special time with one child while your husband has special time with the other child. Neither will feel neglected or more loved than the other one.
As one girl is slightly younger than the other she goes to bed 15 minutes earlier. You have special time for hugs, kisses and stories with her. Set the timer, 15 minutes later you have special time with just the older girl for the same.
I don't know if this sounds reasonable to you or not, but it can't hurt and it might help.
If one is a better artist then tell her she is very good. The other child will be better at something else and you need to praise up that part of her.
They aren't the same person, they aren't going to be the same in all things and should realize that while one of them is a great artist the other one is a better story teller, or dancer, or better at sports.
P. R

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

one thing i loved growing up were my "daddy-daughter-dates" with my dad and "bedtime chats" with my mom. i really looked forward to that special time when i felt like the most important person in the world to my parents. maybe some special one-on-one time with each of them would be helpful. how about a date night with them every other week and go get ice cream, go for a hike, see a play, plant the garden, or whatever they want to do just with you that night. that way they get that personal attention they seem to really want from you, without the competition of the other sibling. and they'll know that it's their turn next week, and they get you all to themselves. (maybe you and your husband can split up and each take one girl? that's what we do with our kids and they (and we!) really thrive on that relationship-building special time together.)

my guess is that if they get some individual time like this, they'll not compete so much. just some thoughts... good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

They are playing you bigtime.
Stop feeling sorry for them and start by making rules that address their annoying and unnecessary habits of demanding your comparisons and constant attention.
Don't just "try" the methods you described, KEEP doing them and when they don't cooperate there should be consequences such as loss of privileges etc.
At the first word or whine or question implement the discipline and stick to it.
Love is not just about attention and affection, it is about providing for them and helping them to be able to grow up and function as adults.
At the rate they are going how will they ever be able to accept love from anyone and be satisfied.
Something you might try with them on the side is letting them keep a Gratitude Journal.
Each day they can write down one or two things they are grateful for from that day.
Such an activity may help them focus on just how much they have, and lessen their tendency to demand what they already have, your love and affection etc.
Right now they have you right where they want you.



answers from Dayton on

I really agree with Julie. My mom used to get in the middle of my brother and my fights all the time, and it just made them last longer, until she wasn't around. The "Brady Bunch" approach, of letting them figure things out for themselves, really does work better.

Plus each person has wonderful unique talents that they excel at. It's OK to tell one daughter that her artwork is fantastic and the other that her athletic ability is top notch. You don't have to say or imply that one is better than her sister on these talents, but let them know you notice.

The rivalry between my brother and I never got out of hand or ugly, but we did push each other to excel in life. Now that we're grown up we even do 5ks and half marathons together. Plus he's someone I can call and talk to and vice-versa, so don't worry too much about your girls' attitudes; it's pretty normal. :)



answers from Cincinnati on

There's a great book that has helped me with this. It's called "Siblings Without Rivalry" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches