Sibling Rivalry

by: Sandy Janzen Vanvuuren
Many parents feel distressed by the fighting and argumentative behaviour that
their children engage in, fearing that such rivalry will adversely affect the developmentof the child’s pro-social concern and ability to get on amicably
with others. Sibling rivalry, a spirit of competition, jealousy, or resentment between siblings, frequently commences when a younger sibling arrives. Adjustment is easier if the firstborn enjoyed secure relationships with parents before the baby arrived and if that secure relationship is maintained
afterward. It is a good idea, if possible, for the older sibling to ‘make friends’ with the younger sibling before birth. Parents are advised to continue displaying love and attention to their older children, as well as maintaining their regular routines as closely as possible.

Spend quality time with your kids
Timesharing is a positive way in which children can be made to feel special – a
‘date’ with Mom or Dad alone, away from the younger sibling. It is always beneficial to not make comparisons between children, and older children benefit by being made aware of the baby’s needs and assisting in the care of the newborn – they feel good about themselves when they are made to feel important in the lives of the younger ones. The number of minor arguments between very young siblings can be as high as 56 per hour, centring mainly on personal possessions and scripts to be followed during pretend play. Squabbles abate with age and if the siblings view their relationships as positive, they are often resolved in constructive ways. Feelings of anger or resentment are not to be dismissed or suppressed in children, rather children are to be encouraged to take ownership of their feelings and deal with them in a positive manner.

Be a good role model
Siblings are much more apt to get along well together if their parents get along well. Marital conflict is an excellent predictor of jealousy and antagonistic sibling interactions, compacted by parental discipline tends to be power assertive. Emotional insecurity in children is aggravated by marital conflict, and a power assertive manner of discipline by parents may communicate to a more powerful older sibling that forceful strategies are appropriate in dealing with those smaller than themselves. Parents as role models of empathy may shape their children’s behaviour may be hurtful to others, and how kindness can promote a strong commitment to helping others. A warm and loving parental example is the best way to develop empathy in a child.
Pay attention and respond accordingly
Relatonships are enhanced when parents make an effor to monitor their children’s activites. Normal conflicts between siblings can escalate into serious incidents- becoming habitual if parents regularly ignore them without intervening. Destructive battles occuring in a home of uninvolved parenting is a decisive predictor of aggressive, antisocial behaviour outside of the home. A good harmonious start to the morning, by making it a special time for the children to spend together is a great way to set the tone for the day. Also beneficial are family ‘meetings’ where squabbles can be discussed and sorted out in  calm and rational manner, and all family members may participate and have their say. Less conflict occurs between siblings when parents respond warmly to all their children and do not favour one child over the other. Younger siblings are especially sensitive to unequal treatment, and they may react negatively or display adjustment problems if they perceieve older siblings to be favoured. Older children need to understand that younder ones may have different needs and that at times unqual treatment may be justified. At the end of the day-siblings are forever!
Sandy Janzen Vanvuuren is a Registered Counsellor and a part time lecturer at the ICP. For counselling of studies in Christian Psychology call 011 827 7611 or