Sibling Rivalry

It can be extremely disheartening for parents to watch their children taunt, tease, argue, and fight with one another. Sibling rivalry causes tension that can disrupt the serenity of the entire home. In the Western countries, about 82% of people have at least one sibling, with whom they generally spend more time with than their parents. Although, children who spend large quantities of time together can’t be expected to get along all the time, sibling bonds can be complicated by outside forces that contribute to consistent contention and aggressive behavior between brothers and sisters.

Birth order is one aspect that may play a role in sibling rivalry. Children who are closer in age are more likely to antagonize each other than those who have a few years between them. In addition, parental treatment may play a huge role in sibling rivalry. If children feel they are receiving an unequal amount of love, attention, discipline, or responsiveness, they are likely to act out as a way to compete for what they desire. Plus, children compete to define their individuality apart from their siblings, as they do not wish to be compared by their parents or others. However, sometimes sibling rivalry is just the result of differing personalities or outside influences that cannot be controlled.

Understanding the causes of sibling rivalry makes it possible to take actions in preventing or reducing the problem. By using positive parenting skills you can help build your children’s self esteem. Parents must recognize that each child is unique and has their own individual talents and abilities. Never compare one child to the next or label them as opposites in any way that portrays negativity. Avoid using phrases like, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” and “If you practice more, you will be good like your sister.” In addition, teach problem resolving skills, set a good example, and set aside regular one-on-one time with each child. Although rivalry can disrupt the bonds of siblings and create tension in the family, there is hope to reduce or resolve bullying, violence, and rivalry between siblings.

Creating a parent child contract with each child that details certain acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and the rewards/consequences is a great way to communicate and work out some of these issues.