Sibling Rivalry:How Parents (and Others) can Make it Better or Make it Worse.

Others can be relatives, teachers, religious leaders, coaches and neighbors, etc.

Rivalry is healthy.

It is normal and natural for siblings to compete with each other. The competition prepares them for the world at large. Healthy individuals are able to compete with others and attain what they want and need. Living in a family and learning how to compete is valuable and productive.  Competing, per se, is not a problem. How family members compete with each other is the key factor.  It’s the style of competition that is healthy or unhealthy. Children learn about competition in the family in several ways. Mostly importantly, how each parent models competition in his or her own life has a big impact on children. Whether or not parents compete with each other and, if so, how they do that, impacts upon their children. How parents handle competition influences how their children will handle it. Children may engage in competition in the same way as their parents, or differently. If it is not fun, they may opt out of competition altogether.

Sibling rivalry is about competing for parental resources.

The first-born never has to compete with a sibling(s) for parental resources; they just have them. When the second child is born he or she begins life competing for parental resources while the first-born has to start competing. The first two children in any family are the most different whether there are two or ten children. The reason for this is because they need different ways to compete for parental resources.  The more children there are in a family the fewer parental resources for each of the children. Children can get more parental resources by being unique, such as gifted, talented, handicapped, troubled, etc.  Children who are unable to compete tend to get lost in the family and feel like they don’t matter.

Parents can promote healthy competition by:

  • Modeling competing in healthy way.
  • Modeling losing in healthy ways.
  • Helping their children compete productively and effectively with each other.
  • Not taking sides between siblings.
  • Expressing confidence that their children can work out their differences.
  • Having clear fair rules/boundaries that they follow through on consistently.
  • Comforting and consoling their children when they lose.
  • Discouraging their children from disparaging and making fun of each other.

For more in depth on Sibling Rivalry see Article: How Parents Can Make it Better or Worse.

With care and concern,

Dr. Bea

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