Sibling rivalry in families is a normal occurrence. Just about everyone with a sibling has had to deal with it. Petty squabbles break out between siblings all the time but thankfully these are usually resolved quickly without much harm done.
However, if left unchecked, there are also occasions where disagreements that start out over something minor quickly escalate into something more severe. Sibling rivalry begins early in life and can generally be attributed to siblings competing for parental attention and affection with each other.
Sometimes, we, as parents can be responsible for the tension our children face. If we can recognise some of the catalysts for it, we can take steps to avoid them and build a healthier environment for our children.
While it’s only natural to compare ourselves with our brothers and sisters, there is often an irrational knee-jerk tendency to irrationally blame them for our own limitations. The feeling of living in another sibling’s shadow is one that is made worse when parents constantly praise a particular child and unintentionally include comments like “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” These types of statements can make your child grow resentful of you – and their sibling for being so perfect. While parents may possibly have their own prejudices, it is important to be as fair as possible to all your children and to avoid making statements that favour one child over another.
Set ground rules for acceptable behaviour. This lets you set an objective standard against which all your children can be assessed against. Remind your children to keep their disagreements civil and that name-calling, yelling, physical violence will not be tolerated. When setting rules, constantly remind them that they are responsible for their own actions, regardless of the situation or how provoked they feel.
Set a Good Example
Parents can also set a good example to their children when it comes to resolving problems and disagreements. If you and your spouse work through conflicts in a respectful and civilised manner, it is very likely that your children will follow your example when they run into disputes with one another. Children are impressionable. Remember that negative examples such as slamming doors, rudely interrupting conversations and shouting at one another will have as strong an impact as positive ones.
Children are sensitive and pick things up easily. Staying neutral when dealing with conflict is important. It allows you to maintain a balance in relationships between not only you and your children but also amongst themselves.
Establish rules and encourage your children to contribute their ideas. Let them know that there are consequences to breaking these rules, just like in real life. As the children will play a part in deciding on these rules, it is unlikely that they will disagree.
Parents are of course, the biggest role model in their children’s life. Remember that children mimic their parents’ attitudes and behavioural patterns, and set a good example for them.