Enough has been written & researched about Sibling Rivalry. Enough tips available to try to prevent sibling rivalry. Enlightened parents do their best to prevent such rivalry in the second (or subsequent) born.
But, we all know, Sibling Rivalry in some or the other form is quite widespread.
Sibling rivalry is the umbrella term encompassing jealousy, competition and hostility that may turn into fighting or other forms of physical abuse between brothers and sisters or children living together in a joint family.
Parents today are almost certain that either they didn’t have any sibling rivalry or would admit they had a healthy sense of competition. We also know our parents never took any steps to prevent / avoid such rivalry. Why then, the incidence is increasing?
On the other hands parents today lament, “Doctor, we really treat both of them alike; we thought we prepared R (elder one) for the second one and today he doesn’t allow his old toys, with which he can not even play today, to be given to Y (younger one)”
Why is sibling rivalry seen more often nowadays?
- The NextGen child, we all agree, start having a temperament by 18-24 months; by 3 yrs for sure! They have a unique personality; their mood and adaptability play a large role in how they get along in life and how will they get along with another sibling. (e.g a laid back child vs an anxious child; a child who clings to parents for comfort may be resented by other siblings)
- If a child has a health issue requiring more attention, others may take it as attention seeking. Parents should involve other kids in looking after the sick one especially reminding/ giving medicines.
- With a wide gap between two kids (more so with second one being an accidental pregnancy after 8-10 years) first teenager has developed a sense of individuality and independence and might resent helping with responsibilities, taking care of younger siblings, or even having to share already dwindling, quality time with parents.
- Lack of an ideal role model: if parents resolve conflicts in a respectful, productive, certainly not aggressive way, they increase the chances that their children will adopt those tactics when they encounter problems with one another. But with kids whose parents routinely shout, slam doors and argue loudly when faced with conflicts (there is always stress!), they will, for sure, pick up these habits.
Sibling rivalry is not only seen in elder children but also in younger ones. We can therefore conclude that we parents, unknowingly, act/ behave in a certain manner that brings up/ establishes the feeling in our one child that the other one is favoured!
A chat with a psychologist, who is used to hearing kids complain about their parents, helped me list the following:
- Comparing children – many parents have this pastime of comparing their kids in front of others; such conversations may be overheard and leave an indelible mark.
- Subconsciously developing negative feelings towards one child; and we all know body language is almost 76% of communication.
- Parent’s inability to rationally react to conflict between two kids; many parents (especially those not trained in conflict resolution) actually worsen the conflict by siding with one and admonishing the other. Balancing act is never more required.
- Healthy competitive feeling is always an asset and helps a child in achieving set goals. Some parents set up competition between their kids – laying a foundation for deep-seated sibling rivalry.
- Kids from families that lack quality family time do not get requisite, subtle, guidance in mutual respect.
- Disharmony between parents – each one neglects the child who is the favorite of the other partner; Kids may be used as pawns and these parents may be actively supporting rivalry.
Many of us, who have completed their family, may feel they need not worry about sibling rivalry but all of us need to bring up kids to become a competent and self-confident individual, as such a person is incapable of jealousy and hostility.
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.