Sibling rivalry is what happens when feelings of jealousy and competition erupts between brothers and sisters, often leading to fights and arguments. (1) Sibling conflict has been reported even from early Bible times as Joseph’s brothers (the Joseph with a coat of many colors) sold him into slavery.
Every parent knows that each child is different with a different personality and different way of viewing and processing the world around them — that’s why no one method of parenting works precisely the same way with every child.
Why, then, have we succumbed to the idea that each child needs to be treated the same as every other child?
For example, a 4-year-old may whine about having to go to bed earlier than their 10-year-old brother or sister. Obviously, a 4-year-old’s needs are different, and they just need to accept that difference.
It’s not unusual for children to fight. It is said that everyone in a love relationship fights. Sometimes parents need to intervene, sometimes kids need to be left to resolve issues themselves. It’s difficult to find that boundary.
Reasons for Sibling Rivalry
Supernanny, Judy Arnall, describes four types of sibling conflict and says that “each is driven by an underlying feeling ... most all relationship fights are generally about feelings, and not so much about the presenting issues.”
• Need for attention
• Sharing or perceived victimization
• Pent-up resentment
The key is knowing how to respond to these situations in a way that diffuses the anger and frustration, and redirects your children, teaching them healthy ways of dealing with situations.
Dealing with Sibling Rivalry
“[T]he best way to deal with sibling fights is to deal head on with the feelings, rather than the issue.” (2) After all, it’s not the feelings that are wrong, it’s kids’ expression of and ways of dealing with those emotions. It’s important that kids learn to respect and accept their siblings’ feelings and to learn how to express their own feelings without hurting someone else’s.