Sibling Rivalry and Identity Formation | Parent Coach

Sampada Kathuria
Parenting

13 Jan 2021
Sibling Rivalry and Identity Formation | Parent Coach

Sibling rivalry is the kind of competition, fighting, and jealousy that usually exists between brothers and sisters. It is a concern for almost all parents with two or more children. It begins after the birth of a second child and can be stressful and frustrating for parents because it usually continues throughout childhood.

When they compete in childhood for the attention of their parents, it is natural for them to fight with each other. This competition continues from parents' attention to claim on toys and also affects children's social and emotional development and thereby ultimately affecting their intelligence and sense of identity. Sometimes the siblings tickle each other one at a time and later fight like enemies, but the parents rarely take it seriously because they always come back again.

What Causes Sibling Rivalry?

2 childs playing with each other and eating chocolate

The following are the causes of sibling rivalry:

Each child is competing to define who he or she is as a person. They want to show that they are different from their siblings and try to find their talents, activities, and interests. When children feel that their parents are not giving equal attention and responsiveness. In other cases, they may feel their relationship with their parents is threatened by the arrival of a new child.

The developmental stages of your children affect how mature they are and how well they can share your attention and live with each other. Children who are bored, hungry, or tired get frustrated and start quarrelling. When children don't know the positive ways that can help them initiate playful activities, and also attract attention for siblings,  they quarrel more. 

Stressed parents can reduce the number of times that can be given to children and this increases sibling rivalry. Children engage more in conflicts if they are not getting proper time for fun with their family members. Stress in children's lives can shorten their fuses, and reduce their ability to tolerate frustration, which can lead to more conflict. Parents’ behaviour with their children and reaction to conflicts affects how well siblings can be brought up.

Preventing Sibling Rivalry

It can be very frustrating to see the kids fighting with each other and can be stressful for parents. Although it is difficult to know how to stop a fight, yet you should get involved to help your children get along.

The following are the ways to prevent sibling rivalry:

1. Stay Calm, Quiet, and in-control:

You should pay attention to what your children are doing and in this way, you can intervene before a fight begins. If you remain cool and quiet your children will also learn to do the same. Thus it can be a way to prevent fights among siblings.

2. Create a Cooperative Environment

You should avoid a comparison between your children, and encourage them to favour each other. You should not forget to set an example and create opportunities for collaboration and compromise. They interact in the same way as their parents interact. For example, if their parents argue loudly, then they are more likely to do this and see it as an appropriate way to deal with their problems.

3. Celebrate Individuality

Children fight less if they find that their parents appreciate them individually,  and not comparing them to each other. You should start by avoiding labels and tell each child that they are special to you by spending time with them individually. If your one child likes to run outside, then you should soak up the sunshine with them. If the other child likes to spend time reading a book, then you should also help him to read the book. 

4. Plan Fun Family Time

You should plan family time fun activities such as family dinners, playing board games, picnics, holiday trips, etc. It is a great way for children to bond and share positive memories together. 

They will spend a good time with each other because of these moments and thus it will help them bond more and quarrel less.

5. Treat Kids Fairly-not Equally

Fairness is very necessary for parents because such fairness will go a long way. But fairness doesn’t always mean equal and so the behaviour towards each child should not always be equal. Rewards and punishment should be tailored to the individual needs of your children. For example; you should not give each child the same toy, instead, you should give them different toys that suit their age and interests. 

6. Pay Attention To The Time of Conflicts 

You should pay attention to the time when they usually get into a conflict. For example, you should notice that if there are more chances of conflict before sleeping or when the children are hungry before meals. Then perhaps, a change in the daily routine such as a well-planned quiet activity, an earlier meal or snack can help your kids’ conflicts.

6. Teach Them Positive Ways

You should teach your children positive ways to get attention from each other. You should teach them how to contact another child and ask them to play and share their toys and belongings.

You should also teach them to make friends and play with their friends and become social. 

7. Don’t Make Comparisons

Every child feels that he is unique and right and he is his own person and is only rated in relation to someone else. So you shouldn't make a comparison between your children.

Instead of comparison, you should give them their own goals and levels of expectation that relate only to them.

Final Words:

Finally, I can say that you should set aside alone time for each child if it is possible. When you are alone with a child, you should ask them which of the things they like about their brothers and sisters and which of the things about them that bother them.

This will help you keep an eye on their relationships, and will also remind them that they probably have some positive feelings for each other.

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    Area Of Expertise: Child Counseling, Couple Counseling, Work Stress, Job Stress, Mental Health, Family Counseling

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