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What is Sibling Rivalry?

Do your children fight with their siblings, feel jealous of each other and engage in sibling rivalry? If so, keep reading to learn how to:

  • discourage sibling jealousy and competition
  • encourage more care, co-operation and camaraderie between your children and
  • have a more peaceful home!

Sibling rivalry includes the competition, jealousy, arguing and even physical fighting that can go on between siblings. It is heartbreaking and stressful for parents who love their children and wish they would just get along!

Why sibling relationships are so important

Sibling relationships are very important for a number of reasons and can have positive or negative short-term and long-term consequences.

First, sibling interactions can have an uplifting or harmful impact on the quality of life for children, parents and family dynamics. When siblings are jealous and combative it increases the stress at home which has a negative impact on family physical, social and psychological wellbeing.

Second, sibling relationships provide the training ground for how children will relate in the world. Siblings who fight with each other at home practice anti-social behaviours that can continue at school with their peers and with other family members

Third, when siblings are poor role-models and strong influencers they can have a negative impact on their siblings when it comes to substance abuse, early sexual activity and even teen pregnancy.

Finally, the ways that siblings treat each other can have a significant and direct effect on each other’s self-esteem, development and adjustment in childhood and adolescence.

Therefore, it’s crucial for parents to support camaraderie rather than jealousy and combat when it comes to sibling relationships.

Sibling relationships start as soon as there is a second child. We know from the research that a good start is a good predictor of long-term success – in other words a sibling relationship that starts off loving and cooperative is more likely to continue that way.

So, if you’re planning for a second child or if you’re currently living in a “war zone” with your children arguing with each other, fighting for your attention and jealous of each other – here are some practical tips!

What parents can do to support care, collaboration and camaraderie between siblings 

There are many things parents can do to support love and care between siblings;

  • Where possible – start on a positive note. Parents can support the older sibling(s) to accept a new baby if they share (as much as possible) their attention and affection for the second child and the baby to reduce jealousy right from the start. Getting support from friends and family so the older sibling doesn’t feel left out can really help. A present for the child from the baby can go a long way to starting their relationship on the right foot.
  • Actively teach your children life skills that support collaboration and camaraderie rather than encouraging competition between your children. Avoid comparing one child to another by using statements like “why can’t you follow instructions like your sister does?” or “why can your brother hit the ball further than you can?”
  • It’s so important to be mindful of favouritism or unfair treatment between children. This can incite jealousy and competition and be harmful to BOTH children.
  • Role-model pro-social behaviour in the home with the children and with other adults in the home. Role-model empathy, respectful communication and equitable conflict resolution. Look for the Win-Win where possible.

Relationships take time – Yes, even family ones, and yes, especially sibling relationships! 

If you want your children to develop a loving relationship and have a more peaceful home, then you need to teach your children social skills and be patient. When it comes to academics – we take a long term approach – we teach 1,2,3’s and the A,B,C’s little by little overtime. We don’t expect children to read Harry Potter from day 1! So, in the same way – parents need to be patient and teach children life skills like listening, empathy and conflict resolution techniques to help children get along with each other.

You may need to remind your children over and over and over again while they learn to care for each other and get along. If you continue to create a family culture of love, care and collaboration – where violence and unkindness are unacceptable – you’ll have a more peaceful home and your children will have skills for success at home, school and in life.

 

Dr Rosina McAlpine

Dr Rosina MacAlpine is the creator of Win Win Parenting. Win Win Parenting is a research based approach to parenting moving away from rewards, discipline and punishment, instead using Empathy and Education.