TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - If you ask siblings Enzo, Marina, and Ana-Lynn if they're competitive, you'll get mixed signals. But mom Heather will give you the straight talk.
"This morning we were fighting over who used whose toothpaste, what show are we going to watch, and where they sit in the car," she said.
This mom of three is also a child psychologist at USF. Dr. Heather Agazzi says sibling rivalry can start as early as the birth of a second child.
"I remember when my son was born. I was holding him and he was about 3 or 4 days old. My daughter came up and said 'no baby brother,' and slapped him across the face. So, she showed it in the first few days of his life," she recalled.
Dr. Agazzi said equal attention is essential for little ones.
"Try to take help from grandmas, aunts and uncles, and give each child their special times, even if it’s just five minutes of sitting down with each child," she advised.
Rivalries evolve as kids grow. Older kids compete more around talents, physical attributes and grades.
Agazzi said parents should avoid comparing children with questions like, "Why can't you do math like your brother?" Instead, embrace each child's talent.
"Help their children identify their own strengths and attributes and I think help them grow those strengths and learn to accept those differences between their siblings," she said.
A healthy sibling rivalry can build lifelong bonds says Agazzi.
"They learn how to take perspective and recognize someone else's emotions, so develop empathy," she said. "They learn to stand up for one another."