Sibling rivalry is competition, fighting, and jealousy between brothers and sisters. Tension often begins very soon after the first child needs to welcome their new sibling and can continue throughout childhood. It can be very frustrating and stressful for parents, but parents shouldn’t forget that they
are there to model good practices to their children, help them resolve conflicts, learn a thing or two about themselves in the process – and ask for help if they need it. There’s no university degree in parenting and no shame in being overwhelmed! What you want your kids to show each other – love, kindness, and cooperation – are also the best tools you can use to help them along the way to becoming life-long friends!
Little Steps had the privilege of chatting to Marie Marchand, a mother of 3, the Principal at City Kids Hong Kong, and the founder of Parenting Dialogue! Marie talked to us about the advantages of having children, factors that often create tension, and some tips on how to help solve them. Watch the video for more invaluable insight from wonderful Marie’s well of knowledge and multi-faceted experience with the subject!
Siblings have the opportunity to learn how to share time and things, cooperate, learn to negotiate, resolve conflict and reconcile, practice and enjoy dialogue with a peer; how to love and have compassion, take care of each other. They always have someone to reach out to – a peer and a friend. They also learn that good times and good relationships rarely exist without some of the bad, and have a strong foundation to have a relationship that can last for a lifetime! Even if they understand these advantages, they probably won’t know how to really appreciate them until their teenage years when they get to be mischievous together and have each other’s backs.
The order of birth can ultimately result in resentment as different roles and expectations are attributed to the oldest, the youngest, and the middle child, for example. Gender can also create tension, as well as different temperaments. The connection with the parents can differ and lead to jealously because of a feeling of relative disconnection.
But this is where parenting itself acts as a major factor as well. Avoid comparing either explicitly or implicitly and highlight individual talents and traits that make each child special – not in relation to other children, but in themselves. Talk to them as the intelligent individuals that they are and learn through their input – both about themselves, yourself, and all of the unique relationships make up your family unit. Slowly teach them to deal with conflict fairly by acting as a mediator – brainstorm solutions and compromises together, and then try to put them in practice to see how they work.
Conflict is inevitable – big and small – but there are plenty of other opportunities for parents to put children in situations where they need to cooperate, share, take turns, etc. Conflict resolution is a skill that has to be practiced and continuously developed. Use the language of encouragement and be kind to facilitate kindness in your children. Try to connect with each child individually every day (or every two days, or every week – as much as you can) for 20 minutes through an activity of their choice. Recognize each child’s uniqueness and individuality and, in times of conflict, acknowledge their individual feelings, listen to their perspective, and help them reach a compromise or a solution everyone can agree upon.
If the rivalry is profound or parents are overwhelmed and feel that the tools they have and the strategies they’ve tried don’t work, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Prevention and adjusting is the best way to go – you don’t have to, not should you, wait until things get out of control.
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