Sibling rivalry is a common concern for lost all parents with two or more kids. Sibling rivalry is influenced by many factors and may sometimes be very unsettling and stressful. Here is everything you need to know about sibling rivalry and strategies to cope with it.
“Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal until they get together.” – Sam Levenson
What is Sibling Rivalry?
The greatest gift our parents ever gave us was our sibling. However, it takes time to understand the same and thus, sibling rivalry is very common and obvious.
Sibling rivalry is the resentment, bitterness and fighting between brothers and sisters. It is a concern for almost all parents of more than one child. Problems often start right after the birth of their second child. Sibling rivalry usually continues throughout childhood and can be very disheartening and stressful for parents.
We as parents should ensure that sibling rivalry does not turn into adult envy.
Why do siblings fight?
There are many reasons siblings fight. Younger children are attention seekers and they would want your attention and response. In current pandemic situations when I and my husband are concentrating on work locked in a room, once in every half hour or so, one of us must attend them and resolve the conflicts.
Initially, they were happy together at the beginning of lockdown as they used to play with different board games and watch TV together etc. However, now after 4-5 months of excessively spending time together, they are bored of being with each other.
Boredom, tiredness, lack of sleep
These could be the primary causes of sibling rivalry. However, we cannot overrule the fact that something must be bothering them, and they may not be able to express it correctly and explain it to us. It could be as trivial as them feeling hungry or they had a bad day at school or a fight with a friend or they may be upset with parents. It could be anything.
This is common on the arrival of a new baby or when parents tend to give more attention to the younger child. Children feel they are not getting equal amounts of parent’s attention, love, warmth and responsiveness and hence they retaliate. So, it is very important to have family time/meetings and fair treatment for all children to ensure none of them feels neglected or depressed.
Stress handling ability of parents
Parents should also be aware of their attitude and stress handling techniques. If parents themselves are aggressive, children would look up to them and try to replicate. Children learn the subtle nuances of behaviour from their parents. Raise yourself before you try to raise your child.
If the age gap between two kids is less, say the younger one is a year old and the older one, three years old, the older one is not matured enough to understand the effects of harmful or aggressive behaviour. Parental intervention is a must at this age. They may be at different developmental stages and maturity levels to understand and deal with conflict situations.
Different forms of Sibling Rivalry
This is one of the toughest questions we can ask parents 😊 as if they list down 100 forms, next day children will come up with a new innovative 101st form. Hence, this question could have multiple and long lists of answers as applicable to each one of us.
Few to mention based on my experience:
- Teasing if one loses the match/game
- Hiding a toy or object belonging to other siblings
- Biting or Hitting or throwing objects
- Shouting and creating a scene ensuring one of the parents must rush to resolve
- Breaking objects belonging to another sibling
- Disagreement/Clash of choice or interests like a choice of game or watching shows on TV
- Blaming each other and making fake stories
- Threatening /Shouting or Challenging to feel more powerful
To most parents, all the fighting seems unnecessary and they keep wondering about the root cause for the same. Children try to prove their point and want to become their parent’s favourite child and thus, keep coming up with different ways beyond the parent’s imagination😊.
Factors that influence Sibling Rivalry
Many factors influence sibling rivalry and should be sorted with utmost patience by parents. Some of the factors to mention are:
Age of children and their understanding levels and maturity
Kids who are too young will keep fighting for petty issues and little older children would know to overlook certain things and distract themselves if the other sibling is misbehaving.
Some children are hyperactive since birth and due to their high energy, they often indulge in destructive acts rather than channelling their energy into something more useful and sustainable.
A child’s behaviour is a reflection of parents, upbringing and the environment. Some children are too emotional and impulsive while some children master the art of overlooking unimportant things in life and move ahead.
Society and surroundings
Children are highly impacted by the society we live in and its norms and people surrounding them. An abusive or high crime rate neighbourhood harms children. They may get into drug abuse or other major issues once they grow up if their childhood is disturbed and full of abuse.
Children who face trauma in their early lives like losing a parent or having divorces parents etc. also impacts them emotionally and they may find adjusting to situations with little more difficulty. Also, in case of parents being into abusive relationships or regular fights also adversely affects the child as they look up to you as their role model.
Problem resolution and solution for siblings rivalry
It is difficult to resolve the problem every time amidst our busy schedules, but below are a few points which we can think upon to resolve sibling conflicts:
Be firm and never take sides
The parent-child relationship is based on trust. Be firm and consistent with your decisions and child discipline. For instance, if you have said that fights would lead to the scrapping of screen time for two days, be firm and don’t allow it. If you allow screen time because you were busy, children will never trust you and they will take your decisions lightly, leading to more possibilities of conflicts later. A ‘ No ‘ from you should mean a ‘no’ till the punishment is over.
Having clear family rules
It is a great idea to have certain family rules and to display them in the study room or dining or living room. Simple family rules examples:
- Treat each other with respect.
- Never shout at others.
- Clean your own mess.
- If you are at fault, say sorry and clear the mess.
- No TV time if you cannot resolve the conflict.
- Own up if you did something wrong.
- If no one owns up, mom/dad decides the outcome.
Refer to your rules when conflicts occur. This will make it easier for you to make kids understand the cause and effect relationship of conflicts. You may have your own rules. Make sure you follow them firmly and set a good example by following them yourself.
Understand your child’s behaviour
Every child is different and unique. They have come through you that does not mean that they would be like you, they are a different individual altogether. In case your child is hyperactive or looks depressed, you should immediately consult medical experts.
You must not ignore any early signs and try to improve their behaviour as early as possible.
Understand your child’s need
Be fair to all your children. Do not compare or show favouritism. Be assertive and explain that some privileges are given to the younger one because of his/her age.
My two naughty boys (Nabhanyu aged 10 & Daksh aged 5) often fight on screen time and I need to explain that study pressures are different and so is the allotted screen time for them.
Understand that they are young children
Children will seek attention and try to throw tantrums. Just keep yourself calm and deal with them patiently. With time they will surely understand the cruciality and importance of your work and will support you.
My boys are my biggest blessings and while they fight, they ensure they help their mother whenever she needs.
Understand their love for you
Ensure you give quality time to your children and have regular family time and meetings. Ensure you all have your meals together or watch a kid’s movie together. Deep inside they love you and look forward to spending time with you. Also, try to distract and motivate them with some incentive for their good behaviour.
You may divide the sibling rivalry into three categories.
If the fights are of moderate levels like simple teasing or mild. You may completely ignore it and consider it normal. Let the children try to resolve the conflict on their own. This will help them to see reason and independently deal with problems.
If the fight involves slightly raised voices, shouting’s and you sense that it will eventually become a bigger and serious fight. You could intervene and firmly explain them to stop, review your family rules and resolve the conflict. This is your test of patience and the art of parenting.
Out of control:
If the fight involves abuses, loud voice and physical harm, it needs to be immediately stopped and your interventions become important before the fight gets worsened.
When should you step in?
When the situation becomes out of control you must intervene. However, you should get prepared once you start getting warning signals (borderline) and act to stop before it’s too late.
Benefits of sibling fights: Really?
While fighting is never good ideally, however sometimes fights to teach life lessons and kids do learn important life skills through arguing they do with their siblings. They should not learn aggression; however, they should learn how to be assertive and explain their concerns. Today they may want your voice to be heard, tomorrow these skills will benefit to showcase their dissatisfaction at lager forums and platforms.
Sibling rivalry may teach them:
- Deal with struggles and conflicts.
- Manage conflicts and resolve differences amicably.
- Be assertive and to stand up for their rights
- Negotiate and compromise and adjust to all circumstances
Why do parents worry about sibling rivalry?
Parents think that children should be behaving properly all the time. But honestly, it’s a myth. If they do, they are certainly not children 😊
Parents should stay calm and deal with patience unless children physically harm, abuse and become out of control.
While worrying could be a habit for some of the parents for their children but this needs to be improved. Just embrace the uncertainty and live in the moment.
If a child is growing in a direction which needs medical help, address it at the earliest as violent behaviour could cause serious problems in future.
Sibling rivalry is universal and it helps children deal with conflicts on their own most of the times. However, timely intervention is necessary where the problem may cause serious hurt or severe emotional bruises. Deal with it with patience and lots of love, giving your kids a good example and they will definitely see light.
Do let us know in the comments, what works for you and how you deal with sibling rivalry.