Sibling Rivalry

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

In a house with more than one kid, there are bound to be some problems. Parents of teenagers or preteens may be troubled by the amount of fighting, both verbal and physical, that goes on between their children. This is a common problem in homes with adolescents and one many parents find particularly difficult and upsetting. Most brothers and sisters experience some degree of jealousy or competition, and this can flare into the squabbles and bickering that is called sibling rivalry.

Sibling rivalry is a routine part of growing up in families, but when that fighting turns into constant arguments, fights, and the creation of some potentially dangerous situations, it should be dealt with.

Following are some possible causes of sibling rivalry:

  • Age of the child: A toddler might feel jealous of the new born brother or sister as he/she is getting more attention than him. Also, when the children are younger, they can play with each other but as they grow older, their preferences change and they are not as friendly as before.
  • Position in the family: Often an older child is expected to 'let go' and let the younger child have the first choice. Many times the oldest child may be burdened with responsibilities for the younger children or the younger child might spend his life trying to catch up with an older sibling.
  • Sex of the child: Sometimes a parent or parents might prefer the child of a particular sex over the other. A son may hate his sister because his father seems gentler with her. On the other hand, a daughter may wish she could go on the hunting trip with her father and brother.

Here are some tips to reduce your frustration over quarrelsome siblings and lessen the fighting too:

  • Don't make comparisons. Comparing siblings does not encourage better behavior. It only intensifies jealousy and envy. Each child feels is unique, and he resents being evaluated only in relation to someone else. Instead of comparison, each child in the family should be given his own goals and levels of expectation that relate only to him.
  • Parents should tell adolescents that while it's normal to have disagreements, the constant fighting upsets them and they value peace at home.
  • Let the siblings express their feelings. Don't dismiss or suppress your children's resentment or angry feelings. However, let your kids know that Physical violence in the home is not acceptable.
  • Don't take sides in sibling fights. Instead, try to let children work out differences.
  • Rules and boundaries that foster respect for each other's person, property, and privacy are essential in all homes. Adherence to these principles will help aid the respect of each other that the parents are striving for.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,