Sibling Rivalry…Is It Inevitable?
Sibling rivalry… it is one of the oldest forms of conflict; it is universal and it’s incredibly normal. The symptoms begin almost immediately as child number two is born and continues throughout childhood and often into teen years.
For those of you who were an only child or had the rare “perfect relationship with your siblings growing up”, sibling rivalry might be a new issue for you. Sibling rivalry can be defined as the jealousy, competition or fighting that occurs between brothers and sisters. Preschool and elementary school aged children are trying to define themselves while finding their talents, interests and independence. Their search for all of these identities often cause “head-butting” among the siblings who might be doing the same sort of exploring, or could just be in their way. The majority of sibling rivalries often fall into one of three areas.
1) Status- fighting for position in the family
2) Attention- a child may feel they are not getting as much attention as another sibling (new baby, sick child etc.) and then use conflict as a way of catching more of mom or dad’s time and attention.
3) Ownership- possessing toys, friends, clothes, or activities also cause issues. Remember they are trying to understand their own identity and might not like their brother or sister’s taking over these things.
Some other common causes for conflict include: not enough fun family time, stress in a child’s life, and a child age. The older and more mature the child, the more likely they are to have the skills to handle the different issues that might be causing conflict.
As you may have noticed above, many of the issues that may cause conflict, are tightly, if not directly correlated to you and your role as parents. Being aware of how you can encourage a more peaceful home and relationship amongst siblings can make a large and positive impact on your children, lessening the amount of conflict between siblings.
1) Avoid showing favoritism to one child
2) Try not to compare the siblings… “ Tommy has great manners, why don’t you?” Remember, each child is their own person!
3) Embrace each child’s strengths, talents and interests
4) Plan equal amounts of alone time with each child everyday
Using the above suggestions should help ease conflict between siblings, but inevitably there still will be battles! While we encourage you to allow your children to resolve the conflict amongst themselves, there will be times that an adult needs to step in and help. First, help your children develop the skills needed to resolve conflict; compromise, sharing and respect will all be lifelong skills! Secondly, if both siblings are fighting, then both are at fault. Put your focus on resolving the issue, rather than placing the blame on “who started it”.
Finally, we encourage you and your entire family to sit down and have a family meeting. Focus the meeting on setting ground rules for playing and on the behaviors involving their brother and sister. Let each family member talk, and find ways to compromise so that everyone agrees on the final rules. When children feel personally responsible for the rules in place, they are more likely to follow them.
Ground rules could include… No physical contact while having a conflict. If a toy is the source of conflict, put away the toy for a certain amount of time. Set the ground rules with clear consequences. This helps you as an adult follow through on the punishment, children understand receiving consistent punishment.
Though conflict and fighting among siblings is exhausting and frustrating, children benefit from sibling rivalry. Conflict resolutions, compromise, respect for others and learning that not everything in life is fair, are skills they need and will use the rest of their lives. If you have any questions, we are here at www.ifnotyouwho.org. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!