How to manage sibling rivalry – Part I
Sibling rivalry is an unhealthy competition between children born of the same parents. It is also a seemingly insignificant matter, like a two-year old asking his mum to put down his younger sibling who is a newborn so the mother can carry him, or one child refusing to share toys, space or other resources which a child believes should be his or her sole property with siblings, says parent coach and a family and education enthusiast, Chinekwu Oreh.
“In fact, sibling rivalry, as recorded in the Holy Book, is responsible for the first murder on earth. Parents may inadvertently drive sibling rivalry through unhealthy expectations and unhealthy comparisons amongst their children. Sometimes, parents gloss over the issues that lead to sibling rivalry, but proactive parenting demands that parents should start from an early age to deliberately nip every trace of sibling rivalry in the bud before it spirals out of control.”
Oreh who is also an author and public health practitioner noted that research has shown that family system factors such as parenting styles, parent-child relationship and sibling interactions could either drive sibling rivalry or promote good sibling relationships. Other factors that could be responsible for sibling rivalry if not properly handled are family dynamics like birth order, age and gender of children, or the presence of a child with special needs.
For the Convener of the Raising Outstanding Kids Group, a community providing support to parents proactively raise their children, she shares three reasons that breeds unhealthy rivalry among siblings:
Your Upbringing: Have you noticed parents unconsciously manifest some of the traits their own parents had? An individual’s life experiences shape him might unknowingly manifest certain traits that may be unwanted which he/she has carried from childhood. If one grew up in an atmosphere of unhealthy comparison or show of favouritism, he could either make a conscious effort not to repeat the cycle with his children or he may unconsciously repeat the unhealthy cycle.
Parents must ensure to consciously choose to manifest only the positive traits acquired from their parents and this can be achieved by deliberately doing the inner work to free themselves from negative experiences of the past.
Unhealthy Comparison: Parents may have a preconceived notion of success and this might be the standard they would use to judge their children. If, for example, a parent sees success solely as great performance in school, the parent might tend to compare the children based on their academic performance.
Some might even justify this act of unhealthy comparison as constructive criticism and might not realise the far-reaching consequences of such actions.
Parents need to understand that all children are wired differently; they have different strengths and the seed of greatness is deposited in all of them.
Parents should therefore assume the infinite approach of encouraging their respective children along their innate strengths and desist from the temptation of comparing one to the other.
Show of favouritism: Parents might knowingly or unknowingly show favouritism to one child over the others. They might do so because the child is of a preferred gender, or the child acts in a more endearing manner or probably because the child excels in all that he does. This show of favouritism could breed hatred and unhealthy competition, which might be carried on to adulthood. Parents should therefore avoid any urge to show flagrantly favouritism to any of their children, no matter the reason.