Sibling Rivalry – What to Do About It


One of the biggest problems that many parents are faced with is sibling rivalry. In many cases this rivalry even lasts into adulthood and can become very serious. Unfortunately, it seems to be a fact of life that just comes with the territory of having more than one child. Is it really no surprise that some parents choose to have only one? All joking aside, sibling rivalry can cause unrest and chaos in any household. In addition, there is always the chance that someone could become seriously injured as a result of sibling rivalry should it become physical, which is so often does. Sadly, there have even been some cases of sibling rivalry that have ended in injury, hospitalization or worse. The good news is there may be some things that parents can do to help nip sibling rivalry in the bud before it gets too bad. The following information may help shed some light on sibling rivalry in terms of what causes it and also what may be able to be done to stop it.

Competition and Jealousy

Perhaps one of the most common causes of sibling rivalry is jealousy of one another. Siblings are constantly in competition for the attention and love of their parents. When one feels that the other has been given something or has received special attention of some kind, this can result in major jealousy. Much of the time this jealousy is unwarranted. But have you ever tried to tell a jealous sibling that he/she is wrong and that it is all in his/her head? It isn’t quite that simple. As siblings get older the issues they argue and fight over will also evolve. For example, children age 4 or 5 will argue over something silly such as a toy, while children who are 13 or 14 may argue over a video gaming system or a computer. As these siblings enter their teens the arguments and issues may become even more serious, such as those that occur over a romantic interest. Unfortunately, the competition doesn’t stop just because the siblings grow up. Siblings will always find some reason to be jealous of each other and this is just the way it is. The upside is that a child who grew up in a home with siblings may have a better handle on cooperating and problem solving than an only child will.

Following Rank

Sometimes a younger sibling will become resentful of the older sibling because he/she feels that the older sibling is always given preferential treatment in terms of special permissions. In the same way, the older child may become resentful toward the younger sibling/s because he/she feels that the baby of the family always get his/her way. In addition, when parents put too much emphasis on who the older sibling is and place too much responsibility on that child’s shoulders, not only are the parents sending a message to the younger sibling that the older can be trusted more, but they are also giving the older sibling cause for resenting the younger sibling. No child wants to continuously keep track of and be responsible for another child. It is important that parents remember that older sibling does not equal babysitter. It is also important that parents try to give each child an equal sense of responsibility so that nobody feels as if he/she is always being controlled by another sibling.

Try to Defuse Situations Before They Happen

There is no such thing as a home with siblings, without rivalry. The two go hand-in-hand. However, because this can become so dangerous and somebody could easily be hurt is very important that any situations which could become heated between siblings are defused immediately. Most parents learn to develop an instinct as to which situations may bring on a higher possibility of sibling rivalry than others. For example, some parents know what is going to set their children off before it happens and this allows them to try and prevent the situation before it starts. For instance, if a parent has two boys who are only one year apart, Christmas and birthday shopping can be a challenge. This is because both boys are bound to want the exact same thing. The best thing to do in this situation is buy them each the exact same thing. Remember no matter how hard you try, in a situation such as this, this is almost the only way to win. It is also very important that parents set limits and boundaries and make their expectations very clear. Violence is never acceptable and should never be allowed to go on between siblings. By learning some of the situations which may ignite an argument, you can learn to avoid them.

When to Intervene

As parents our first urge is always to protect our children from harm. However, when you are dealing with sibling rivalry you must make sure that you resist the temptation to immediately get between the siblings who are arguing. One of the things that children learn from sibling rivalry is how to handle and manage conflict. Allow your children some time to try and work things out on their own. You should only ever step in if it is obvious that the situation is going south quickly and that someone is about to get physical. Otherwise, let them work things out. When they are little it may be necessary for you to separate your children and put them in timeout long enough to think about their actions and how they may have handled things differently. As they get older you will need to impose consequences for inappropriate actions such as hitting, kicking and at any other form of physical violence.

Keep in mind that children learn from what they see. Always remember that how you handle your self in arguments and disagreements will speak to the way your children handle themselves as well. Children who come from homes with a history of physical abuse will almost always become physical abusers as a result. Your children should see you handle your self as a responsible and calm adult who is capable of solving problems without resorting to name-calling and violence.

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Rick Missimer

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