Sibling Rivalry can be a Source of Anxiety for Parents

There is strength in unity. Boating in North Glenmore Park, Calgary. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
There is strength in unity. Boating in North Glenmore Park, Calgary. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

“Siblings that say they never fight are most definitely hiding something,” says novelist Lemony Snicket.

If you look at it in a positive way, sibling rivalry is a type of competition. It can be a healthy rivalry. If it goes in a negative way then rivalry creates animosity and nightmare for parents.

There are several factors involved in how the siblings bond. Siblings generally spend more time together during childhood than they do with parents. As they grow the relationship is often complicated and is influenced by factors such as parental treatment, birth order, personality, and people and experiences outside the family.

If the children are very close in age and of the same gender and/or where one or both children are intellectually gifted then the relationship can be complicated.

Listening to your children fight with each other can be frustrating. As parents what can you do to create harmony? Problem comes when parents start taking sides. Things become more difficult if you have more than two children.

So I did some reading to see what the experts have to say. Here is the summary:

  1. Accept the fact that if you have more than one child there is going to be sibling rivalry. If the rivalry is healthy then it creates healthy, smart, happy family.
  2. Parents should learn to know when and how to intervene when siblings have a conflict. Taking sides is totally unnecessary and can be counter productive. You cannot have one favourite child out of two or more children you have.
  3. Parents should remember sibling rivalry typically develops as siblings compete for their parents’ love and respect. That is natural part of growing up. Rivalry also depends on children’s age, sex and personality, the size of the family, whether it’s a blended family, and each child’s position in it.
  4. As children grow parents find out that each child has unique habits and needs although they have genes from the same parents. Learn to respect each child’s unique needs.
  5. Parents have a tendency to compare their children’s achievements and disappointments. Avoid comparisons. Comparing your children’s abilities can make them feel hurt and insecure. Each child is born with unique gifts. Parents should learn to understand this and nurture them.
  6. Parents should learn to listen to their children. They should encourage their children to talk to each other and learn to understand and appreciate each other’s successes and failures. Family dinners also provide opportunities for talking and listening.
  7. Never forget to compliment your children when they behave well, have success in their endeavors, are playing well together or working as a team. Encourage good behavior.
  8. Show your love. Spend time alone with each of your children. Do special activities with each child that reflects his or her interests. Remind your children that you are there for them and they can talk about anything with you.

I am sure there is more to parenting than just eight points mentioned here. I feel the most important point is to give each child unconditional love. They will never forget that. I am sure they will pass that unconditional love to their children.

Long live good parenting.

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