According to Wikipedia, sibling rivalry is a type of competition or animosity among siblings, whether blood related or not.
One thing for sure is that sibling rivalry is inevitable once you have more than one child. Sibling’s fighting is a common occurrence in families.
Children learn important life skills like dealing with power struggles, managing conflicts, resolve differences, being assertive, standing up for themselves, negotiating skills and compromise during such fights.
Children fight to get attention, to feel powerful, to handle boredom and annoying a sibling may seem more exciting than anything else going on.
They also fight to connect with their siblings, get physical contact, or become the favoured one in their parents’ eyes by making their siblings look bad.
But fighting with siblings is not the best way to achieve all these. As parents, you can guide them on how to find more appropriate ways to get their needs met.
Unfortunately, some parents tend to Ignore these unhealthy aspect in their children’s lives. They believe that kids automatically grow up to drop rivalry but this is not always the case.
For some children, this unhealthy rivalry follow many into adulthood. Subtle competition starts, constant tension becomes the order of the day, unending friction is present and these siblings grow never agreeing on anything.
As parents, being too strict, rigid and harsh will not make your children fight less, they will even be more aggressive, develop self-esteem issues, become bullies, never stop fighting, have poor relationships as adults, lack empathy, not care about others.
While children raised by permissive or neglectful parents feel they didn’t get enough attention, therefore, there are no rules to guide their behaviour, so they tend also to fight more. Parents must learn to be present in their children’s lives.
Showing favouritism or comparing your children to one another either favourably or unfavourably is a no-no. Instances abound where children voice out their frustrations and disapproval of how their parents prefer or supports their sibling whenever they have fights.
Some siblings develop hatred for a perceived favourite child. The preferred child is not comfortable when left alone with their siblings and this haunts some of these children for life.
If you give one child preferential treatment, it could lead to a gang-up against that child. There are instances as well where parents take ill and their children tell them point-blank to call their favourite child to take care of them.
Children are special creatures, they listen to your unspoken words but pay attention to your actions towards each of them and this leaves a lifetime impression on them.
Parents, stop comparing your children with one another. While some kids are hyperactive, others may be calm and reserved. They all have different personalities, and that is the reason they behave like they do.
Treat each child as a unique individual that they are. Make each child feel special. Their needs, feelings, and perspectives are all important. Don’t mess with their self esteem.
Scold each child for the wrongs they did, and within the context of what they did wrong. Advise them on appropriate behaviour, rather than comparing them or telling them to behave like your other child who is calm or the one you have a soft spot for.
Do not allow your children play one parent against the other. Differences in how you react to their children’s rivalry could increase the intensity of the competition between them.Talk directly and privately with your co-parent if you disagree with a parenting decision.
Be sensitive not to categorize and label your children by who’s smarter, who’s successful, who’s talented, who’s dull, lazy etc. When you use labels and categorization at home intentionally or unintentionally you dramatically increase the competition between them. You are also inadvertently drawing comparisons between your kids.
Learn to cheer their positive attributes, such as teamwork, persistence and kindness. Siblings can root for one another, so parents must foster cooperation rather than competition. Encourage a positive and loving connection to the family instead of competing for your approval as parents.
A lot of siblings don’t like to admit they have behavioral problems and do not accept a sibling’s suggestion that they change. A little change in your own interactions and approach may be needed to move them out of the competitive state they are stuck in because their competition may be driven by childhood feelings of insecurity and inability to measure up.
Adulthood turns sibling rivalry into envy. If your siblings continue to fuel rivalry in adulthood and simply cannot move past the past, it’s time you have a face-to-face and heart-to-heart discussions with them.
If they remain adamant or envious of your accomplishments, it says a lot about their own self-esteem and sense of accomplishment and the best way to end such is to refuse to engage them in the first place. Such shift in behaviour leaves such siblings with no choice than to shift in response.
Family is all you have when everyone else leaves. Learn to not be a stranger.