Nearly every parent with more than one child has experienced the frustration of sibling rivalry. Despite the best attempts at keeping harmony in the family, brothers and sisters will fight over toys, tattle on one another, argue, tease, criticize, or become physically abusive, leading mothers and fathers to ask themselves: "What have I done wrong? Why can't our household be peaceful?"
As annoying and upsetting as this rivalry can be, it is quite normal. Some jealousy and friction between siblings is a part of growing up, although it is worse in some families than in others.
Why does rivalry among your children occur? In part, it is a competition for your attention and love. You are very important in their lives, and they would rather not share you with anyone, particularly a brother or sister. That in itself is enough to cause dissension. Other factors contribute to this rivalry as well, including the personalities of your youngsters, their mutual or differing interests, their ages, the amount of time they spend with one another and with you, and even the favoritism you may show toward one child, however unintentional. With so many factors at play, some squabbling is inevitable.
Guidelines for Parental Management of Sibling Rivalry
- Be fair.
- Avoid making comparisons between your children.
- Encourage the children to work out their own differences.
- Avoid taking sides on sibling conflicts. Be impartial, and do not show a preference for one child or another.
- Set guidelines on how children can disagree and resolve conflicts.
- Discourage tattling.
- When it is necessary to punish or reprimand, do it with the child alone in a quiet, private place.
- Use regular family meetings for all family members to express their thoughts and feelings, as well as to plan the week's events and to give positive recognition and rewards (allowance, special privileges).