Sibling rivalry can be one of the most stressful issues of being a parent and at times may even cause contention between parents. Sibling rivalry is defined as jealousy, competition, and fighting between brothers and sisters blood-related or not. It doesn’t obviously become an issue until the second child comes into the picture. In my house with 6 kids there is at least 1 good brawl a day (usually more) and some days feel like WWE is live in my living room. Each fight ranges in reasons from touching each other to each others things all the way to another sibling being in their room or way.
I know as a child my brother and I must have drove my mom nuts, (I didn’t realize how nutty it makes us until I became a parent to 2 kids). It should come as no surprise that siblings fight so often as most children spend more time together than they do with their parents or peers. Sibling rivalry usually lasts through childhood but if not dealt with correctly or if not at all it can lead to a life-long battle and competition for who turned out better, more successful, prettier, smarter, etc.
Siblings can fight for many different reasons. Thinking back now to my brother and I, (we are really close now thank god!) we fought constantly about sharing, being in each other’s space and anything else we could possibly come up with. We were a true product of the 80’s in being that many parents back then and some today if raised in the same manner think that sibling rivalry is normal and that fighting and aggression are a normal course of action between siblings and therefore goes uncorrected.
Sibling rivalry may also derive from the fact that each child is different and trying to separate their personalities and show parents that they each have different talents, ambitions, and abilities. Each one of my children are completely different and exhibit different personality traits that at times can rub each other the wrong way leading often times to fights. Hopefully by correcting and helping them to recognize each other’s strong points and that they all possess differing viewpoints and strengths they can begin to cooperate and develop and build a closer relationship.
Another key factor affecting the relationships in todays kids is the inability to spend quality time together. This can be based on so many factors parents work schedules, (my husband works in the oilfield industry and therefore works a crazy schedule for 2 weeks and then is home for 1 week where we try to jam as much family time in as possible), electronics of course at the top of the list as so many including adults are constantly texting, working on-line; etc., and of course most kids have a crazy schedule of their own now days between soccer, dance, football, and anything else we can possibly cram into our lives.
My first experience truly with sibling rivalry was horrific and I still remember to this day how bad it can get. For me it started the day Holden was born when Alex the oldest must have realized on some level he was no longer an only child, (Alex had his dad and I for 3 years all to himself must have been tough news for a child). We were at the hospital after Holden was born when Alex began a terrible meltdown and tantrum demanding that we return the baby that he didn’t want a brother, (you can only imagine my horror and embarrassment as we were surrounded by friends and family).This behavior continued well into the time that we brought Holden home as Alex went so far as to pack Holden’s diaper bag to return him to the hospital, (I had to tell him that once you had the baby and brought them home there was a no return policy and no refunds).
Of course with each continued addition sibling rivalry only got worse, and unfortunately with 6 he said/she said occurrences almost always ending in tears and screaming it almost becomes an insurmountable task to discover the root of each fight. I LOVE and adore each one of my children but there are certainly days where I begin to question my own sanity and it for sure tests and pushes our limits to how much one person mentally can really handle, (apparently in our household it must be at an infinity level as after each night I lay each one down and kiss and hug each one and love them even more than the day before).
Don’t get me wrong I love my little kiddos the good definitely outweighs the bad. But, with all the chaos of already having 6 tiny humans running around finding solutions to helping squash as many of these conflicts as possible is a must in our home or it could quickly become World War 3 at any given moment. I am still battling with these rivalries to this day but I think my husband and I have definitely become more adept in the past 10 years at keeping it at some what of a minimum, and hey we must be doing something right as I have even heard comments of “I love you” towards one and other.
One of the most important things to remember when fighting between siblings begins is whenever possible do not get involved. I know it can be tempting as because let’s face it hearing screaming and yelling are not on any parents top ten things to do in a day list. The only time that I have really intervened in a fight with my kids is when there is a danger of physical harm. I know this is difficult for everyone but there really are reasons such as it helps your kids learn to resolve their own fights, it can lead to a closer relationship, and even help promote cooperation and problem solving skills with their peers which is an essential skill throughout life. However, if you are bothered by name calling or any language you feel is inappropriate it is encouraged to “coach” the kids with more appropriate wording and how to express their feelings, (Nemours.org, 2017).
There are certain things as a parent that we can do to help prevent or at least keep fighting to a minimum:
-Set ground rules from the beginning. Many times we as parents procrastinate on setting rules and what we expect as we have been coached that children of younger age are immature and do not understand right and wrong. Yes and no, usually my husband and I begin to coach or encourage our expectations and rules as soon as our children are crawling around. Does this mean spanking or yelling? Of course not, it just means a simple redirection from the undesired behavior. As the children get older obviously you do begin to explain the behaviors in your home that are not acceptable; hitting, cursing, name-calling, yelling, slamming doors, etc. Also, it does help to ask their opinions on the rules and what consequences are when they break them,(yes obviously they will try and take advantage but it is our job not to allow this and be reasonable)we do this so that they can begin to understand they are responsible for their own actions and the consequences of those actions.
-Do not allow them to think everything is always fair or needs to be equal. Unfortunately, we are now in a time where everyone expects everything to be even-steven and fair. However, my husband and I come from the time when there was no participation ribbons or trophies and you had to actually work for and earn what you got. Children need to learn that not everything in life is shared and life is not always fair.
-Make time for individual one on one activities with each child not just always doing activities as a family. Each one of our children are completely different and have different interests. It is also our job to find out what they are and enjoy doing things with them that they enjoy. I have kids who enjoy completely different things; is it hard to always make time to do something with each one? Heck yes! But, I move things around to make time even if it means putting something else on the back burner for 5 minutes it is so worth it. These years fly by enjoy every moment and second with them you get to.
There are a few case when professional help may need to be looked to such as if it is causing marital problems, caused by depression, or if you feel any of the children are in actual physical danger from their sibling. If you are concerned and do not feel it is normal I highly encourage you to speak to your doctor. Remember take one day and fight at a time, they do not go away all at once or even at all. It is how we deal with and help our children learn to resolve conflicts that matters and ensuring that they realize our love has no boundaries or limits and they are all loved equally in our hearts.
How does your family deal with sibling rivalry leave me a comment or just say hi. I love hearing from all and enjoy getting new ideas and perspectives on life and chaos.