While siblings often share the complicated roles of both close friends and each other’s toughest critic, rivalry can also be part of the process of growing up – and a concern for almost all parents of two or more children. Sibling rivalry can start early, sometimes even before the second child is born. The rivalry develops as children compete for their parents’ attention, love, and respect, and typically rears its head in various forms of fighting and expressions of jealousy.
* Each child is attempting to define him/herself as an individual, and in so doing, both competing with and separating from their sibling(s).
* Children sometimes feel there is an uneven distribution of parents’ affection, discipline, and overall responsiveness.
*Stress in parents’ lives can decrease the amount of time spent with and attention given to their children.
*Stress in each child’s life can increase tension between siblings and increase fighting.
*Children who engage in physical or verbal arguments typically do so because their parents believe aggression and/or fighting is a normal way to resolve conflict.
As a parent, it’s important that you don’t play favorites. Don’t compare your children to one another. Allow each child to express him or herself and be exactly who they are. Enjoy each child’s success. Make sure each child has time alone with you, every day, if possible. Plan activities that are enjoyable for the whole family. When conflict arises, have ground rules in place for acceptable behavior in resolving that conflict. Teach children positive ways to get attention from one another, and from you, rather than by picking fights. Allow for some space that sibling rivalry, although unpleasant, is a completely normal and healthy stage in your children’s development. Sometimes a little self-care on the part of the adult can go a long way in decreasing stress levels around sibling rivalry.