Joy was beyond our limits when it was revealed – we were having a boy! A brother for my sweet little girl, who was a toddler herself at the time. It was the best thing I could ask for. Everything felt perfect. Sibling rivalry was way out of my thoughts. Oh Boy! How naive I was!
When the first time she playfully slapped him, just like that; I was stunned! I immediately realized that it is not going to be all fun and play with two small children in the house. And then as they grew up a little more, all my fears started actualizing.
I was totally unprepared for the change of dynamics at home. The newborn phase keeps a mother fully occupied and totally useless at the same time. I could very well feel that I was not able to give time to my elder one. Every moment I could get away from my new baby was dedicated to my old one. Not only was I devoted, but I was desperate! To keep her pleased and to let her know that I still love her. However, my efforts were mostly ousted. Her behavior was changing. Sibling rivalry had already set in.
Causes of Sibling Rivalry
If you are a parent who is looking for some cues to understand the cause of such disruptions in harmony at home, this article can shed some light. There could be many causes for sibling rivalry but a few of the most common ones are listed below:
- The foremost reason for sibling rivalry will undoubtedly be having feelings of insecurity. An elder sibling might feel threatened by the newborn. Seeing the parents spend time with another baby might not set well with them. This can affect kids of any age group. In younger ones, we might see kids being angry with a parent, or suddenly getting clingy to one parent. It is actually rooted in their fears of losing their parent’s attention.
- Intentionally or unintentionally, every child tries to get in the good books of their parents and as they grow, they develop skills and interests, which they would want to show off to their parents. It might seem like competition but could be as simple as an effort to present themselves as a distinctive individual. However, these do lead to conflicts among siblings. A fight to constantly prove themselves.
- Elder kids have lived alone for a while and have learned the art of enjoying their own company, which the second or later siblings don’t know much about. So when their older sibling will try to play on their own, the younger ones will find it totally strange and unacceptable. This will lead to one bothering the other, which will be followed by a fight. They just wanted their sibling’s attention but are unable to find a positive way to do it, which turns into sibling rivalry.
- How a parent behaves also plays a huge role in causing such conflicts. Younger kids are very impressionable. If they witness arguments or fights between parents, they somehow decipher that having a fight is normal. Also, how you talk to your kids – your tone or body language will have a huge impact on how they conduct with each other. They start behaving the same way, saying the same words, and using the same tone.
- Issues such as hunger, sleepiness, or crankiness could also be the reasons for picking fights, especially among young children, whereas, for older ones, there could be other stress-inducing reasons. As a parent, we need to first find out if there is some other underlying reason causing the tension leading to sibling rivalry.
Ways to Resolve Sibling Rivalry
Keeping the above-mentioned causes of sibling rivalry in mind, we can figure out how we can be more cautious while dealing with such situations.
- Never compare the siblings. At the moment we might feel that we are just trying to help them by giving an example of better behavior, but the kids might see it as biased. They might start seeing their sibling as more of a competition than as a lead example.
- The second point adheres to playing favorites. We as parents many times, unknowingly become biased toward one child. I try to be fair most of the time, but somehow, I always end up asking my elder one to compromise and make way for her little brother. Just because one child is younger than the other, doesn’t make the elder one any less of a child. We need to be fair and try to empathize with both. This will certainly lead to resolving sibling rivalry.
- Really listen. Give those few minutes dedicatedly to each child when they are sharing something with you. It is of utmost importance for them to feel valued. You are their favorite person in the whole world and they deserve your full attention when they demand it. Even if it is not possible at the time, you can make them understand that, but again, while being fully attentive.
- Kids also need to know positive ways to get their sibling’s attention. Tell them about action and the consequences of approaching the wrong way. How they can be more polite and empathetic to each other because ultimately all they want is each other’s company. I have also realized that no matter how much they fight or tease each other, it breaks their heart to see the other hurt or crying, therefore making them gently understand or see what their action led to, could help.
- Only intervene when required. Experts believe that fights teach kids to solve problems and find solutions. So, sibling rivalry or fights could actually be a part of their learning process. At times you will have to sort out their own battles. However, set some ground rules, for example, no hitting. But, if it still happens, then it calls for an intervention.
- Most importantly – to manage your own anger. It is said to anger feeds on itself. So if you are always yelling, and screaming at your kids, they will learn to do the same. Kids are like sponges, so if you keep a calm and happy environment at home, chances are they will absorb the same energy. Even if they have disagreements, it won’t be a horror story.
Sibling rivalry can get frustrating and exhausting for parents. Still, the point to understand is that differences among siblings, or for any two individuals for that matter, are inevitable. And we need to accept that. The key is to make them also realize that it is okay to have indifferences but sorting it out in an effective manner is essential for a healthy relationship with your sibling.