Wikipedia describes sibling rivalry as competition or animosity between children of the same family whether blood related or not. Kids tend to fight over every little thing, whether toys, food or attention.
Considering the fact that children tend to spend more time together than with their parents, they share a lot of experiences. If these experiences are negative and the parents do not notice early enough to create a balance; they could create a history of hurting generations.
Is sibling rivalry normal?
From my point of view; No. just because it’s a common attribute in many homes does not make it normal. Parents and guardians should seek to re-unite and seal any loop holes that could cause that lasting hatred that causes brothers and sisters to be distant and indifferent.
Here are some of the causes:
· Parent conduct:
A feature in www.psychologytoday.com explains that a child as young as 15 months is able to comprehend acts of affection from a parent and even notice different expressions to another sibling.
From eighteen months, children understand how to comfort, revenge, protect and deceive each other. Their minds comprehend much more than you could ever think.
If a parent is not keenly watching and correcting any ill behavior equally for all children, there’s a high chance that the lesser child will build a mechanism to fight back or shield himself from any form of pain.
Parents should be extremely vigilant. They should balance punishment and reward for all without favoring one child to another.
· Life occasions:
In most homes, when another child is born, the older child is neglected and dethroned. The parents give the young one almost 100% attention leaving the elder child lonely and un-attended. What they forget is; the older child still has needs.
He still needs the attention, the play time, the hugs and kisses. If these necessities are not provided, rivalry is formed from that tender age and it could last a lifetime.
The younger child grows knowing she deserves all the attention while their sibling can do without and therefore extends the same treatment to the sibling. This creates an animosity that neither the parents nor the siblings can resolve.
Another life occasion could be sickness, where one child has a delicate condition that demands lots of attention and therefore the ‘normal’ child gets zero time with her parents. In fact, some parents widen the gap by hiring a nanny to cater for her needs for the sickly child to get 101% attention.
Children milestones comparison could also create rivalry as one child is applauded more than the other. Whose tooth came out first, who crawled longer, who stood earlier and so forth.
Death can also be another cause of rivalry. In most cases, the parent will spend so much time mourning the departed child such that the surviving child hates the deceased or wishes she was the one who passed on.
· Culture and family traditions:
You have heard of the neglected boy child. Haven’t you? Because of the cultural belief that men are strong even from a young age, you will find that the girls are pampered, bought more things, exempted from most errands or taken to better schools.
As much as this may not affect all families, it has caused differences in siblings who can no longer connect because they feel one is more preferred to the other.
You could also find rivalry an issue in families that have chosen a certain career line say, medicine. If the parents and two children choose to be in the medical field while one child feels they should follow their heart and practice law, the family could consciously or un-consciously separate him and make him feel like an outsider.
The result is an obvious distance and a lack of attention to the ‘black sheep’ of the family.
At this point, I know it sounds almost un-avoidable. Isn’t it? Let me give you a few pointers on how to kill this giant.
1. Stop the comparison: – Each child is unique. Appreciate them as they are.
2. Delete the labels: – You can’t tell him, he’s lazy like his granny and expect the sister to respect him.
3. Have house rules: – let everyone be guided by the same rules, no favors.
4. Plan to bond with each at a time: – You can take the kids separately for a walk or play at the park. This makes them feel there’s time for everyone.
5. Use the conflicts creatively: teach a lesson with each conflict.
6. Applaud them together: catch them doing good and let them hear you praise their good acts.
They are simple tactics; aren’t they? You can try them and see if they work for you.