Sibling rivalry is one of the oldest problems in humanity. Rivalries often occur due to jealousy, competition and a child’s perception that he or she is not accepted. It’s normal for a child to begin to explore who he or she is in relationship to others. Since children most often spend time with other family members, they may become more comfortable and feel safe sharing their frustrations with other siblings. Read though some of the causes of sibling rivalries written below. Then read through “What Parents Can Do” to help you solve some of the battles that occur between your children. Review the “Mediation” process at the end of this article.
Causes of Sibling Rivalry
Children who are bored, hungry or tired have a greater chance of fighting with a brother or sister.
Children may be seeking attention from a brother or sister so they start to fight.
Some children have not been taught that fighting is unacceptable behavior in the family.
Children may feel that a parent is favoring their brother or sister. This causes the child to feel unaccepted and resentful toward other siblings.
As children go through natural stages of physical, social and emotional development, they have a need to explore who they are in relationship to other siblings. This may lead to some rivalry with a sibling due to jealousy or competition.
Stress in a child’s life may lead to agitated behavior toward other sibling. This may also occur when the child see the parent going through a stressful situation.
What Parents Can Do?
Try not to compare your children. This may cause one child to feel inferior or less accepted.
Keep the competition between your children at a minimum. Instead of the children working against one other to be “first,” have them work together to beat the clock. Reward them together when they accomplish a task together.
You may need to change your children’s daily routine when you discover that a rivalries occur at a specific time on a daily basis. For example, some kids are assigned chores right after school. Your children may be tired at this time and need some “down time.”
Kids want things to be fair, but they need to be taught that things are not always equal.
Place your children in situations that they will have fun together as a family. You do not have to spend money to do this. Go to a park and play a game. Do artwork together. Teach your children to cook as a team.
Parents need to model appropriate behavior. If the parent is constantly quarreling with the spouse or another family member in front of their children, then the child may view this as appropriate behavior.
Other Things To Consider:
Do not allow one child to take a parenting role over another child for long periods of time. This puts too much pressure on the parenting child and may cause the younger child to build resentment toward his or her sibling. When an older child is given the task of watching a younger child, provide the younger child with some specific duties that will make her feel like she has an important role in help while you are gone.
Do not assume that the older sibling is always causing the rivalries because “he should know better.” Let the older child know that the younger child may be irritating, you will help the younger child change her behavior and, you want the older child to be more patient.
Do not be too quick to intervene. If your children are safe from physical harm, sometimes it’s acceptable to provide your children some time to sort out their differences without your help. It’s appropriate for you, however, to keep an eye and ear on the conflict to see how it’s progressing.
Don’t get pulled into your children’s conflicts and avoid taking sides. This will only add fuel to the fire and build resentment toward you as a parent.
Mediation: Let’s Talk Things Out
Set up a family meeting to discuss the rivalries and conflicts between your children. Your role as the parent is to mediate the conflicts. As a mediator you give each child a chance to speak without interruption. Ask each child how the conflict makes him or her feel. Then, allow each child to come up with a solution to the conflict. The parent’s role here is to give each child a fair chance to speak in a safe environment. Name-calling and insults should not be allowed. The mediator needs to set the boundaries before mediation take place.