If you’re reading this, we’re guessing you have more than one child and it’s not turning out quite the way you would have liked. You’re constantly having to break up sibling fighting, encouraging your little angels not to call each other names and escaping to the loo just for a bit of peace and quiet. We’d like to reassure you, these are pretty common things parents have to deal with!
Sibling rivalry is alive and very much kicking, and while it is, we’d like to give you a helping hand at managing the competition. 💪
What are the causes of sibling rivalry?
When we ask ourselves the question, ‘Why do brothers and sisters fight so much?’, there isn’t a one size fits all easy answer. There are a number of reasons for problems with sibling relationships:
- Different characters. How many times have you heard parents say their children are like chalk and cheese? 🧀 It’s very common. One child might be sensitive while the other might be confident and happy to take centre stage. This could influence how well they get on with each other.
- Your style of parenting. Whether you tend to be a controlling parent who knows everything about what your children get up to or the opposite extreme, there will probably be more sibling rivalry than parents who are able to mediate their children to work towards a resolution.
- Neurodiverse, special educational needs and chronic illness. This, too, can lead to sibling jealousy and children who are constantly fighting 🥊 for your attention.
- Problems in your own relationship. How you deal with conflict will often be copied by your sons and daughters. By being able to resolve arguments 😠 without slamming doors, the chances are that your children will too. Even if you don’t think it’s related, there’s no harm in modelling good behaviour.
- Having a favourite. It’s very easy as a parent to dismiss this as nonsense. Even if it is, the feeling the child has should be taken seriously. This sense of being second-best can increase sibling rivalry.
- Age difference. ‘Why are older siblings mean to younger ones?’, ‘Why are my twins competitive?’ 👭 Sibling rivalry takes place whether the gap is big or small for different reasons. A big gap and activities chosen for the family might favour one or the other. A small gap and they can be fighting for identity and individualism.
Is sibling rivalry normal?
Sibling rivalry is certainly commonplace. Most families have experienced it and most parents experienced it with their own siblings.
On the plus side, difficult sibling relationships can teach children valuable skills: managing conflict, negotiation, compromise, assertiveness and a sense of justice.
What is an example of sibling rivalry?
Sibling rivalry examples can be seen at all ages. A toddler might push his baby brother or sister because they don’t like them.
Older children might be playing a game together one minute and the next they both want the same toy. There follows fighting and screaming and tears.
Teens are not immune! It could be arguing over what TV programme to watch or what to have for dinner! 👱
Sibling rivalry in adults is also very common. Competing over who has the better job, the nicer house or the closer relationship with a parent are examples of this. 👩
How do you fix a jealous sibling?
Although it is common, parents can help their children avoid sibling competition, sibling jealousy and sibling hatred. It’s a good idea to see what you can do to help manage their aggressive behaviour and your own reaction to it. This will open up lines of communication in the family as a whole, and get to the root of the problem.
When there is sibling jealousy, try the following things:
- Avoid comparison. We all have different strengths and weaknesses so it’s best not to compare. Everyone is good at something after all.
- Make time for one-on-one time. Even if it’s only thirty minutes each week, you’ll see the difference because your children won’t have to fight for your attention.
- Don’t play the blame game. In sibling arguments, divide responsibility. That way you won’t always have a victim and a bully. Both have probably played a part in the fight.
- Listen. Get to the root of the jealousy and take these feelings seriously. This is better done with one child at a time and in a moment of calm!
What is the most common cause of sibling conflict?
According to author and journalist, Jeffrey Kluger, a massive 95% of sibling rivalry in younger and older children is property. Let’s face it, in a world where you are dependent on your parents for everything, it makes sense that what you own is one of the only ways you can gain control over your world.
A second reason for sibling conflict is fairness. How many times have you heard, ‘That’s not fair!’ after you’ve tried your best to divide a cake as equally as humanly possible?
Parenthood isn’t easy. There will be blood, sweat and tears! But there’s also a lot of love so have faith. Lots of siblings who fought as kids become the best of friends as adults. 👏