Parenthood is a very tough job, they say. We couldn’t agree more. And one of the toughest challenges that parents encounter -- sibling rivalry.
Sibling rivalry is defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as an intense competition among siblings for recognition and the attention of their parents. It normally begins when a baby is introduced to a family and the older sibling fears the baby will replace him or her.
In some cases, sibling rivalry doesn’t end in childhood and adolescence. It continues into adulthood and becomes hazardous in achieving harmonious family relationships. The competition for parents’ attention becomes complicated to the extent of who gets a better career, marriage, material possessions, and so on.
Michele Alignay, Parenting Consultant at the Love Institute says, “If parents don’t fix this, if they don’t give love assurance to their kids while they are still young, it’s possible they will carry this rivalry as they grow up. It should be stopped and addressed.”
The Child Development Institute cites some important factors affecting sibling rivalry:
• Position in the family, for example, the oldest child may be burdened with responsibilities for the younger children or the younger child spends his life trying to catch up with an older sibling.
• Sex, for instance, a son may hate his sister because his father seems more gentle with her. On the other hand, a daughter may wish she could go on a hunting trip with her father and brother.
• Age, a 5 and an 8 year old can play some games together but when they become 10 and 13, they will probably be poles apart.
“When a new child arrives, don’t tease the other kid/s that they’re no longer loved. It’s possible he or she will start ignoring you. Parents should pay attention at this stage. The child may start to feel negative emotions towards the parents especially to the new kid,” advises Michelle Alignay.
Sibling rivalry is normal. It happens to all socio-economic classes. “Sibling rivalry is a healthy part of growing up,” says Rachelle Tyler, M.D., developmental-behavioral pediatrician at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. “When children manage conflicts, they are learning priceless life lessons including respect for others, negotiation and compromise.”
Do’s and Don’ts
To prevent the negative impacts of sibling rivalry and to avoid this competition from to linger for long, here are some tips from the experts:
• Never make comparisons.
• Establish general ground rules to follow when conflict arises.
• Try to avoid situation that promote guilt in siblings.
• Parents must remain neutral when children fight but if one needs to be punished, it should be fully explained.
• Don’t dismiss or suppress your children’s resentment or angry feelings. Sit down, acknowledge the anger (e.g. “I know you hate your younger sister but you can’t hit her”) and talk it through.
“They should look on each and every child’s uniqueness. Do not compare! This example is a no-no! For example, “Hey your brother is a good speaker. You should too!” - Parents must discover their children’s potential. We have to affirm the gift and the talent in every child, not based on the other,” adds Michelle. – with reports by Obette Serrano, Segment: Family Matters, Episode August 21, 2011
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Child Development Institute
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