“He did it!” “She started it!” Does this sound familiar, mom and dad? As a parent, are you often caught up in the middle of a sibling fight without knowing what happened or what to do next? In early childhood, sibling relationships are considered the earliest and longest of relationships in the family. For a married couple, having kids are a blessing. 

For parents, it is heartwarming to see their kids show love and generosity toward their other siblings. However, there are times that they struggle to encourage them to get along. They should recognize the fact that fighting and conflict are normal if you have more than one child. 

Once they accept that arguments and rivalry are unavoidable, it would be easier for them to develop conflict resolution strategies. In this article, we want to communicate to parents who are dealing with children who have 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 that 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:

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 his parent’s life, was an only child. The firstborn got all the attention and love from them. Now, having one sibling, he feels confused and unappreciated. All of his clothes and toys are now given to the younger one.

Can he still play with the toys he used to love? With his desire to reclaim the attention and the love he once was showered, he could start hitting his younger sister or brother and even hurt himself. The effect of birth order in children affects them until adulthood.

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 received since he was born.  

Parents should never neglect the seriousness of the disputes. This can escalate until adulthood if left unresolved in childhood. Depending on how they manage their two children or more, siblings can grow up either as playmates and best friends or, worse, enemies for life.

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 built-up emotions. 

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 put into practice. This results in children fighting more with their sister and brother. This is simply because this is the kind of attitude and aggression they see. This is 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. 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 role models of the children. 

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 a singleton 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. On the other hand, 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 his 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 would constantly have disagreements over space and material belongings.  A study shows that peer rivalry becomes a learning tool to enhance their interpersonal skills as kids get older. They can negotiate and resolve conflicts positively. 

However, in cases where the dispute is not addressed early by the father and mother, sibling jealousy arises in 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 adult child over the others. The other children will then feel abandoned and unimportant in the family.

Conflict Resolution

Too much dispute between children can lead to anxiety and low self-esteem. 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 daily. 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:

Verbal Communication and 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. 

Mom and Dad Are 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. Teach them to be responsible towards their siblings regardless of birth order. 

Each member of the family should show concern towards each other and do house chores. They should also avoid labeling their children. Children’s memories are sharp. 

They easily remember these labels and tend to live their lives base on these labels. If it helps, go on Family Therapy so you can learn how to have open communication at home. 

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 your child. 

Children who are given enough attention and love are happier and are less likely to engage in fighting. The children are confident that they are equally loved.

Look for Non-verbal Signs

We know that sibling rivalry also has its upside – it develops children’s social skills and helps them regulate their emotions. Regular and constant arguments at home are indeed unhealthy and unproductive. 

You should listen to what your children verbally say and keep in mind the unspoken actions or behavior their children are exhibiting. Let us not forget the phrase: “Actions speak louder than words.”

Hate No More

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.  

We at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) are here to 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. You are not alone in this fight. We are here for you. It is never too late. 

Book an appointment now for a 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 here at KCC can help you get through this. 

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