What Causes Sibling Rivalry?
Sibling rivalry is a natural part of any large family with more than one kid which usually starts to manifest after the birth of the second child. It encompasses
feelings of dislike or jealousy and generally the incessant need for one kid to prove himself superior to the other. A number of factors can lead to such a
predicament and some of the major ones are as follows:
A new baby
The entry of a new family member into the fold- especially if he/she was a lone child or the latest in your family tree before being usurped by a new bay- is
usually where all the trouble starts. When the priority spotlight shifts to the former, then he/she starts feeling left out and they lay the blame on the baby at
which point they’ll start acting out. However, you can get around this by encouraging your child to help look after the baby e.g. by helping with feeding or
putting him to sleep etc.
We all can’t afford the latest toys or games and sometimes kids have to share what they have and therein lay the problem. Children are not always in the mood
to give up their toys for their siblings, or anyone else for that matter, and when there is constant fighting over who gets more time with the bike and whatnot,
sibling rivalry creeps in.
The different needs children acquire as they grow up also molds their relationship with other family members most notably their brothers/sisters who they spend most of their time with. Toddlers, for instance, are the most difficult when it comes to sharing belongings or toys and when an older sibling takes what is theirs, they might react aggressively and this can continue to build up in future. On the other hand, school-aged children can be put off by the desire to be treated as equals to their older counterparts while teenagers normally aren’t too keen on house chores or spending time with their families. These ever-evolving changes play a part in instigating sibling rivalries as kids at various stages of their lives interact.
People are different and so too are kids. While one might be laid back and slow to anger, the other might be set off by the slightest of things. Also, some
children tend to be overlying clingy to their parents which can lead to their siblings craving the same amounts of attention which casts the sails of jealousy. In a
nutshell, when there is a mix of different characters and divergent opinions, your kids are bound to get into it from time to time.
Children can be manipulative at times and when a relative treats his kid a certain way, this can be used as a tool to pull strings in their favor. You need to,
however, see beyond that irresistibly adorable facade and stand your ground.
The Tale-tale Signs That Something is Amiss
Sometimes sibling rivalries can be subtle and unnoticeable and other times they can be as clear as day. Here a couple of things to watch out for that’ll let you know if some bad blood is beginning to fester:
- Children Under Nine Years
For young kids, you’ll notice that they tend to fight a lot both physically and verbally and that they tend to feel frustrated a lot of the time. This behavior could be accompanied by the regular need to tell on others and, in some cases, you’ll notice your child urging you to help with homework or hobbies so that you can spend some time alone. Temper tantrums, thumb sucking, baby talk, baby-wetting and other regressive acts have also been linked to sibling rivalry.
2. Older Children
Older children exhibit constant arguing and they’ll tend to channel their frustrations at pets or objects. Usually, such kids are also fueled by the constant drive to please you and paint their counterpart in a bad light. As a result, there is bound to be an unhealthy competition with regards to academics or sports.
How Sibling Rivalries Differ with Gender
i) Opposite-sex sibling rivalry
Sibling relationships tender to fare much better in a family setting encompassing just two kids of different genders. With each establishing territories as the only
boy or girl in the family, sibling rivalries tend to be less pronounced in such cases. However, that’s not to say that you won’t hear fights about who gets shotgun
when going on camping trips or who gets dibs on the new bike. Understandably boys are afforded a certain air of freedom compared to girls and this is usually the common cause of sibling rivalry in such cases as both sides
fight over equality concerns.
ii) Same-sex sibling rivalry
It’s a whole different ball game when it comes to same gender affairs with sibling rivalries especially intense between brothers. According to a study by students from Pennsylvania’s Albright College, cases of sibling rivalry in brothers tend to more rampant. Of the 210 adults aged between 20 and 80 who took part in the study, there were more documented cases of sibling conflicts between brothers than between sisters. Moreover, brothers gave their relationships a rating of about 5.2 while sisters gave their siblings a 4.8 out of 10 with regards to how bad their childhood conflicts were. Differences between sisters are less pronounced but they are more evident than in opposite-sex settings. Relationships, particularly once they get into the troublesome teen years, can swing from one end of the love scale to the other in a moment’s notice. They can be the best of friends one minute and be at each other’s throats the very next.
How to Best Deal with Sibling Rivalry
1) Doing nothing is sometimes the best way to go. Amidst all the screaming and shouting that comes with this insatiable competition to come out on top, your parental reflex will kick in and urge you to intervene. However, you should ignore that instinct and let your kids work out their problem themselves. If they keep on looking to you for help every time they are at an impasse, they’ll learn very little about how to resolve conflicts themselves. You’ll consequently cultivate a culture of dependence on third-parties for
2) Know how to intervene when things get out of control. If push literally comes to shove and there is a possibility of physical or emotional harm being inflected- constant belittling, tickling and biting also counts- then it’s time to step in. However, you need to do so carefully without seeming to lean toward a certain preference so as to avoid adding more gasoline to the fire.
Here are a few pointers to help out when dealing with sibling rivalry:
The first thing you should do is separate the kids and let them calm down first by sending them to their rooms. Don’t try to solve anything in the heat of the
moment rather give them some time to get their tempers down first.
Don’t indulge the blame game. Both children are at fault no matter who started it so you should let them know that there are both in the wrong and that no
one is more at fault than the other
Find a win-win situation. If the fight was over say a preferred toy, for example, then perhaps offer another solution that benefits both parties e.g. playing
board games for instance. If a win-win scenario is not possible, then they both shouldn’t have whatever it is that they want.
3) Avoid comparisons. “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Such like statements serve to only fan the flames and you should avoid them like the plague. Just point out what your child did wrong or needs to do without using their siblings as a yardstick for ideal behavior or grades. The latter will breed envy and will do more harm than good.
4) Appreciate everyone’s achievements. To build on the preceding point, you need to applaud your child’s efforts in the things that matter to him. Obviously, some are more gifted than others but appreciating everyone individually through the lens of their own abilities will cripple the foundations of spite. So do not lay particular emphasis when one’s achievements are more impressive than the others and, as a result, rewards should be of the same severity across the board. If you take one kid to Disney Land for passing a test, you should also do the same for the other when they improve their grades and not necessarily if they better a sibling’s accomplishments. Judge each kid by their own standards and you nip that undesirable competition that crops in due to wavering self-confidence right in the bud.
5) Be there for each child. Perceived liking or preference toward a certain child is usually the primary cause of sibling conflicts in most homes and to alleviate this, you should set asides one you-and-him or you-and-her time. You could, for instance, take your son to a football game on Saturdays and take your daughter out shopping on another day or simply sit out in the yard, just the two of you, and talk about stuff.
When you’re out together, just take the time to listen which lets them know that they are valued and loved. Ask them how they feel about their siblings- what
they like and dislike- to get a feel of their relationship and if there are any fences that need mending. Be sure to distribute your time equally to avoid looking
like you have a favorite. That said though, there should also be designated family-fun times where everyone can get in on the action.
6) Draw clear lines on rules and acceptable behavior. Coming up with ground rules that keep play and general behavior in check is also an effective means to ensure no one feels victimized. Children often question why their siblings weren’t punished as hard as they were when they commit a similar offence, and when the exact consequences of actions are expressly known, such questions of fairness are put to rest. When drawing up the rulebook, it’s prudent to let your kids have a say in the matter.
7) It doesn’t have to be fair. “It’s not fair!” I bet you’ve heard that a lot when you’ve said no to a certain request and your child references his brother/sister to justify some actions or as leverage to be afforded certain freedoms. While you should strive to treat all your kids equally, naturally the older ones will be afforded certain privileges like staying out late at night which the younger ones can’t. In such cases, explain to them why they can’t do this or that and why the other one is allowed to do so.
8) You need to be a good role model. It’s usually a case of copy-and-paste with kids as they’ll mirror how they see their parents tackle and solve problems. If you and your partner do so in a respectful manner where a compromise is reached based on logic without anyone having his/her way, then this trait will be passed on to your children as well. You, therefore, need to set good precedence by striving to always keep a cool head no matter how dire a situation is.
9) Get professional assistance. If fights between siblings are so severe that it feels like you’re walking into war-zone every time the two affected parties are in the same room, then the best option is to get professional help. A mental health expert is best placed to help out as they can get to the root of the matter and solve the problem given their experience in handling such affairs. This option should be your last alternative when all other conflict resolution techniques have hit a dead end.
Sibling rivalry is an inevitable phase that every family with multiple kids will go through at one point or another but when managed correctly, you’ll have
nothing to worry about. A recent study shows that such fights rarely spill into adulthood with upwards of 90% of the sample population affirming to having a
strong relationship with their siblings in spite of their childhood difficulties.
Until Next Time,