How to Rival Sibling Rivalries
Siblings may share genes, but they are unique individuals. These differences may be noticed early on or much later in life, but either way, they often lead to fights. Sibling rivalry is normal – no household is always like Leave It To Beaver – so it’s important for parents and siblings to know how to take on the tussle.
Although rivalry and fights are to be expected, parents have a major responsibility to show their children how to handle confrontation. If there is negativity and fighting in the house, it is expected that siblings will follow suit. Parents who are quick tempered are more likely to have quick-tempered kids. You need to be a role model for your children and show them how to work through disagreements in a healthy way.
In rival situations, parents have a great opportunity to teach their children conflict resolution skills that they will carry with them into adulthood. Validating each child’s side of the argument teaches them to understand the other’s perspective on the issue. They can then reflect on what they did wrong in the situation and how they hurt their sibling’s feelings. Once both sides of the argument are seen, then they should apologize to one another, regardless of who started the fight, because there is almost always wrong done on both sides.
If you are modeling a positive relationship with your spouse at home, you should still be aware of when and how you discipline siblings. No matter which child is “right” in an argument, both should still be reprimanded if they each showed negative behavior. For example, if one child steals the toy of the other, and the other child hits the one who stole, both should be told why their behavior is inappropriate and be punished accordingly.
To promote healthy sibling relationships, do not show favoritism. Each sibling has strengths and weaknesses that shouldn’t be compared. Telling Jim that he should work hard “like his sister” only hurts his own sense of self-worth. Siblings want their own personalities, and this is best achieved when their uniqueness is celebrated instead of chastised. Comparisons only create envy, which can poison sibling relationships for a lifetime.
If you and your sibling have an on-going rivalry, take a step back and see the issue from their perspective. They may handle problems differently than you do, but that doesn’t make their method wrong. Learning to be happy for your sibling is the best way to work through the rivalry and envy to get to a better place in your relationship.
If these methods don’t work for you, there are other means of mediation. At Stenzel Clinical, our counselors are trained in conflict resolution and can work with your family to create more positive interactions between siblings. No matter how deep a rivalry, there is always hope for a better relationship in the future.