sibling-rivalry-the-science-behind-it

The term ‘sibling rivalry’ often creates an image of young children fighting for attention.

We often believe that this only applies to young children. However, if you ask around, you might find that a few of your friends continue to experience this issue even as adults.

Neglecting its significance can cost your children a lifetime of strained sibling relationships. If you have more than one child, here’s a quick guide on how to handle sibling rivalry better at home!

What Is Sibling Rivalry?

It refers to the ongoing conflict between children of the same family.

Common signs include:

  • Verbal/physical fights or
  • Constant competition for parental attention

Causes:

1) The arrival of a new sibling

Sibling rivalry only occurs when there is a birth of a new sibling.

When a new sibling arrives, the older child may begin to experience jealousy, anger, and rejection as they see their parents spending more time with the newborn. 

2) Parenting style

Some parenting styles promote sibling rivalry. Sometimes, your child might perceive your treatment to be unfair. During these times, speaking to your child would be the best thing to do.

Mistakes you should avoid:

  • Pitting siblings against each other
  • Praising one child more than another
  • Showing favouritism toward one child
  • Giving one child more attention than another
  • Giving less punishment to one child for the same behaviour

3) Stress

Stressed children are likely to lash out at their siblings and end up damaging their relationships with their siblings.

4) Limited bonding time

The shorter the time siblings spend with one another, the weaker their relationship. Thus, internal misunderstandings would continue to persist.

Is Sibling Rivalry Temporary?

No. It often occurs after the second child is born. It may worsen as both siblings grow older and become teenagers. If unhealthy competition persists, the rivalry can continue into adulthood. 

How Can I Reduce Sibling Rivalry Among My Children?

how-can-i-reduce-sibling-rivalry-among-my-children

Stop comparing your children with one another – Avoid asking your child to be more like his/her sibling. Avoid creating labels for your children (e.g. “You brother is a math genius!”)

Allow your child to develop his/her interests – Refrain from getting all your children to do sports just because one of them excels in it. Learn about each of your children’s specific interests and find ways to help develop them.

Spend more time together – Exercise family bonding (eat and play together!) through activities and develop healthy relationships. You could also get the kids to work as a team to schedule screen time so they get to enjoy TV.

Be extra cautious when praising your children and refrain from shaming your children – Praise their action or accomplishment rather than focusing on the difference between their siblings.

Set ground rules – Establish clear rules to reinforce acceptable behaviour. If your child misbehaves, don’t take disciplinary action against your child in front of others. Instead, take your child aside and discuss his/her behaviour.

Don’t get involved in fights (wherever possible) – Allow your children to decide on the outcome. If they don’t come to a mutual agreement, send them for a time-out or take away some privileges.

Balance quality time with team activities – Spend at least 10 minutes of one-on-one time with each of your kids daily. Spend one day a month to take your child out to his/her favourite place. 

References:

  1. Brown, Ashley. (2020, Feburary 11). What Causes Sibling Rivalry & What You Can Do About It? ReGain. www.regain.us/advice/family/what-causes-sibling-rivalry-what-you-can-do-about-it/.
  2. Sibling Rivalry: Helping Your Children Get Along. (2020, Feburary 7). Mayo Clinic. www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/sibling-rivalry/art-20046568.
  3. Bradley, Sarah. (2020, May 19). Give Peace a Chance: Sibling Rivalry Causes and Solutions. Healthline. www.healthline.com/health/parenting/sibling-rivalry#conflict-resolution.
  4. Carter, Alice S. and Fred R. Volkmar. Sibling Rivalry: Diagnostic Category or Focus of Treatment? SpringerLink. link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4613-9838-7_9.