For married couples, having kids is a blessing. But are you, as a parent, often caught up in the middle of a sibling fight without knowing what happened or what to do next?
Aside from parental relationships, sibling relationships are considered the earliest and longest of relationships in the family. It can be heartwarming for parents to see their kids show love and generosity toward their other siblings. However, there are times when they struggle to encourage them to get along. They should recognize the fact that fighting and conflict are normal if there is more than one child in the family.
Once they accept that arguments and rivalry are unavoidable, it will be easier for them to develop conflict resolution strategies. This article is for parents dealing with children with sibling rivalry, how to avoid it, and how to cope with it.
Causes of Sibling Rivalry: Why Do Kids Fight?
In general, children are driven by the desire to be independent and superior. As parents, you should consider the unique personality of your children. Some children find it easy to play with their brother or sister, while some struggle to open up and play.
Young kids find it hard to understand their emotions and even control what they feel. They are not fully equipped with the language skills they need to communicate. This is why tantrums happen.
Not knowing how to control their feelings, kids often struggle with handling powerful emotions like anger and sadness. Their inability to communicate and express their feelings well can lead them to hit and hurt each other in the process. These are some of the causes why sibling rivalry happens:
1. Birth Order
Birth order among children has an impact on their relationship with their siblings as well as their mother and father. The firstborn, at one time in their parents’ life, was an only child. The firstborn got all the attention and love from them.
Now that they have one or more siblings, the firstborn feels confused and unappreciated. All of their clothes and toys are now given to the younger ones.
Can the firstborn still play with the toys they used to love? With their desire to reclaim the attention and the love their parents once showered them, they could start hitting their younger sister or brother and even hurt themself.
The effect of birth order in children will affect every child in the family until adulthood.
2. Siblings Close in Age
Parents often expect their children to love and enjoy life with their brothers and sisters. They expect them to treat one another with love and fairness when they are in the same room. However, not all expectations become realities.
For instance, in a family with two youngsters, often, the older child starts to feel threatened by the love and support that the parents provide for the baby. The older child starts to get annoyed by the presence of the baby. On the other hand, the younger kid will eventually become jealous of the privileges the older sibling has been receiving since he was born.
Parents should never neglect the seriousness of their kids’ disputes. This can escalate until adulthood if left unresolved during childhood. Depending on how they manage their two children or more, siblings can grow up either as playmates, best friends, or enemies for life.
3. Differences in Temperament
From a parental viewpoint, a child considered temperamentally challenging is treated differently from the other siblings. Often, they are considered the culprits behind every single problem in the home.
Moms and dads may only see the distressed child who is crying. But, they never see the other troubled child crying on the inside and have a hard time releasing the pent-up emotions.
4. Parenting Approach and the Mood of the Family Home
When parents are strict and rules are rigid in the family home, unforgiving disciplinary actions are often carried out. This results in children fighting more with their sibling(s). This is happening because of the kind of attitude and aggression they see. It has, therefore, become what they choose to follow when dealing with problems.
The feeling of superiority starts to build in children exposed to this family environment. They only see fighting as a way to resolve conflicts, so let your children grow in an atmosphere full of love, positive vibes, and compassion.
Children learn from their parents and not from someone else. Mom and dad should lay down the rules and be the children’s role models.
5. Families with One Child
An only child will never experience sibling rivalry. But what happens?
They will wonder what it’s like to live in a home with sisters and brothers. They will copy what their friends or other youngsters are doing. They would also be giving extra attention to a baby out of curiosity.
Couples with more than one child would disagree that an only child who is acting out is experiencing sibling rivalry. For them, this is just a behavioral matter of not learning how to share with friends.
How to Manage Sibling Rivalry
A child doesn’t have the freedom to choose which family to belong to. Unlike children, couples have the freedom and have made a conscious decision to have babies. Thus, they should care for and nurture their newborns the best they can.
Kids are naturally self-centered and driven by competition for their parent’s attention. For teenagers, sibling rivalry is a key tool to help and teach them how to form boundaries if the help of family members is absent. This also allows them to discover their unique personalities.
Living with one’s siblings is like early on-the-job training in a child’s life. A child must learn how to live harmoniously with their sisters and brothers.
Sibling Rivalry in Adulthood
Kids with a close age gap and notable similarities in interests are most likely to compete with one another. They can constantly have disagreements over space and material belongings. A study shows that peer rivalry becomes a learning tool to enhance children’s interpersonal skills as they get older. They can negotiate and resolve conflicts positively by going through such rivalries.
However, in cases where the dispute is not addressed early by the father and mother, sibling jealousy extends into adulthood. Now grownups are struggling to get along with each other. They tend to argue a lot and eventually are unhappy.
It is common for a parent to support or favor an older child over the others. The other children will then feel abandoned and unimportant in the family. Avoid this by all means so they don’t bring their rivalry into adulthood.
Too much dispute between children can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. But if we look at the positive side, arguing can also teach kids how to solve their misunderstandings. They learn how to compromise and cooperate as a family.
We can’t deny that, as parents, we often get triggered by too much noise our children make on a daily basis. Fathers and mothers are often tired of the constant arguing and teasing of the children.
How do you keep your cool and not lose your temper? Here are some tips on how to create a calm and positive family home:
1. Encourage Verbal Communication and Implement a No Touching Policy
Parents should remind their children that it is good to talk respectfully with one another. Children should know that getting into trouble and hitting others is not good behavior. They should constantly remind their children to express themselves appropriately and adequately.
2. Mom and Dad Should Be in Charge
It is natural for older siblings to be in charge when the parents are not available. However, letting the children decide who is in charge is like a ticking bomb about to explode anytime. This is why you must teach them to be responsible toward their siblings regardless of birth order.
Each member of the family should show concern toward each other. They should also be encouraged to do their assigned house chores.
Children’s memories are sharp, so parents should avoid labeling their children. They easily remember these labels and tend to live their lives based on these labels. If it helps, sign up for family therapy so you can learn how to have open communication at home.
3. Go on Individual Dates with Each of Your Kids
We know a kid will do whatever it takes to get their parents’ attention. You should find joy in spending one-on-one quality time with each of your kids.
Children who are given enough attention and love are happier and are less likely to engage in fights. They are also confident that they are equally loved.
4. Look for Non-Verbal Signs
Regular and constant arguments at home are indeed unhealthy and unproductive, but we also know that sibling rivalry has its upside. It develops children’s social skills and helps them regulate their emotions.
You should listen to what your children verbally say and keep in mind the unspoken actions or behavior your children are exhibiting. As a parent. never forget the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” Always model the positive behavior you expect to see in your kids.
We often hear the expression, “Easier said than done.” You’ve done everything you can to solve your parenting dilemma. You have read an article about sibling rivalry, but it’s not enough.
Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) can help you turn your chaotic household into a home full of love. We will help and guide you in transforming your children’s hate relationship into a loving one.
Book an appointment now for family therapy. It doesn’t matter if you have a two-year-old, an 11-year-old, or an 18-year-old child. Family therapy offered by KCC can help you get through your problems as a family.