Good evening once again and welcome to today’s meeting. My name is Jane Ndukwe and our topic for discussion is SIBLING RIVALRY. You might be wondering why I chose this topic. In my sleep, I saw two people fighting and one was trying to strangle the other, which made me to wake up forcefully. I began asking myself what that was all about. Even though I did not see the faces of the two people fighting but my gut feelings told me they were siblings and almost immediately, this title jumped up at me: SIBLING RIVALRY. We are going to look at what causes sibling rivalry and how parents can deal with this.

This topic is quite dear to me because I experienced sibling rivalry with my brothers and amongst them. Today, we are all grownups but unfortunately, not as close as we should be. Sometimes I ask myself what really caused this rift and what could have been done to change the narrative? Now, I have two children, a young man and a young lady. Sometimes they quarrel but I also see them make up. Sometimes, I also see them act in ways that question my actions towards them. Does one feel favoured more than the other? Are there things that I’m doing or not doing that could make them feel this way? These thoughts led me to research on Sibling Rivalry in order to throw light on the causes and how to handle this situation to prevent it from degenerating to outright hatred of siblings.

 One interesting fact that I came across is that sibling rivalry is common in homes.  A good number of children get over this and learn how to get along with each other and their peers. However, some carry this rivalry to adulthood and pass this animosity they feel towards their siblings to their future spouses and children, who inherit this hatred they do not know the genesis of.   

WHY DO SIBLINGS FIGHT?

  1. When a child perceives that his or her parents favour another child over him or her. Sometimes unknown to us parents, we pay more attention to a particular child more than the others and this is painful to the ones not receiving as much attention as the favoured one.
  2. When we compare our children and only give praises to a particular child we consider intelligent. We forget that no two children are the same. Each one comes with his or her talents. One may be brilliant in academics but the other may have entrepreneurial skills or some other qualities. Each child is unique and must be seen that way.
  3. When we shame an older child before his or her younger ones because this older one is not doing quite as well as his or her younger siblings.
  4. When a parent speaks negatively about one child to his or her siblings. When a child witnesses a parent gossiping to his brothers or sisters about him or her, this is bound to bread resentment. If a child has done something wrong, tell him or her rather than discuss this with his or her siblings and run this child down.
  5. When a child watches his or her siblings get away with things that he gets punished for. This is also offshoot of favouritism.
  6. When parents split up and share the children; for example, the boy goes to the father and girl goes to the mother. This type of scenario is bound to cause rivalry between siblings especially when the parents feed the children with negative information about each other.

When parents behave in any of the ways I enumerated, this is bound to breed envy and jealousy, which is likely to result in sibling rivalry. Choosing to turn a blind eye to sibling rivalry can result in long standing hatred between siblings, which can be very dangerous and even deadly.

SOME WAYS PARENTS DEAL WITH SIBLING RIVALRY AND THEIR RESULTANT EFFECTS:

Here are some of the comments parents make in an attempt to deal with sibling rivalry:

  1. IF YOU DON’T STOP FIGHTING, I TELL YOUR FATHER. If their father is a disciplinarian, this may work. But when it is used too often and their father is not told or even when told, he doesn’t do anything, this will cause the fight to escalate.
  2. I DON’T CARE WHO STARTED IT; YOU’LL BOTH BE PUNISHED. This causes resentment in the one who is on the receiving end of the quarrel. This even happens in schools when the teacher chooses to punish everyone rather than take some time to find out the child who was at fault. This type of action by the teacher or parent causes resentment on the innocent child or children.  Therefore, rather than take such an approach, spend time to find out the problem and deal with it to prevent the one who started the fight from repeating such an action next time.
  3. ‘WHY CAN’T YOU TWO JUST BE NICE TO EACH OTHER?’ Again, this has not stopped the cause of the argument or fight.
  4. ‘JUST STOP FIGHTING; I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE.’ This tells your children that you’ve given up.

HOW CAN PARENTS DEAL WITH SIBLING RIVALRY?

  1. Dig deep into the reasons for the rivalry. If the fight is because you favour one child over the other, then stop your favouritism and consciously learn to love and support your children.
  2. Ensure equal treatment. If you’re going to buy something for one child, buy for all.
  3. Model positive relationships:
  4. Have joint activities e.g. exercise time, cooking, gardening etc. Let it be fun activity that all your children can get involved. This will encourage togetherness.
  5. Teach your children problem-solving skills and these include:
  6. Learning how to listen to different opinions without flaring up.
  7. Learning how to listen without interrupting.
  8. Learning how to own up to one’s feelings positively.
  9. Learning how to take responsibility for one’s actions and apologizing when wrong rather than blaming someone or something.
  10. When you teach your children how to resolve conflict then allow them space to practice this. When they start arguing over something, don’t rush in to solve the matter, let them try to resolve this using the skills you taught them. Once they’re able to get this, they now have a valuable skill for life. Only when it becomes absolutely necessary will you intervene.
  11. Become a role model for your children. Let them see you deal with conflicts positively rather than shouting and using foul language. Never fight with your spouse. This will be setting a bad precedent for them.
  12. Set family rules. Rules have consequences when broken. When children understand the essence of the rules, they are more likely to obey them. These rules include:
  13. Physical aggression is never OK.
  14. We speak to each other politely.
  15. We don’t tolerate swearing or threatening behavior.

In the same vein, have rewards for good behavior. This will motivate younger children to take the rules seriously.

Anything done consistently over time becomes habit.

  • Have one-on-one time with each of your children. This should be a special moment with you and each child at different times. You can plan a fun outing or you can simply chat about his or her aspirations and the things that make him or her special. In my experience, I find that each time I go into my son’s room to chat with him, he likes this and says, Mum, please sit down. We talk about different things that are of interest to him. Once in a while, we go driving, running errands, shopping and grabbing a bite to eat and he usually tells me, Mum, I had such a nice time with you. This makes him warm up more to his sister, who gets a chance to be with me a little bit more often.
  • For older siblings, allow them do something together without you. Sometimes, Kwame and Kaitlin are given money to go out together either to watch a film or have a meal at the Mall. They usually come home with happy stories and pleasant memories that encourage friendship.

Finally, when our children see us as being fair and just, they will respect us and love each other. This does not mean they will not fall out once in a while. They will make up and recognize that they love each other.

Written by:

LADY JANE NDUKWE