Sibling rivalry: Do not play favourites openly

Sibling rivalry: Do not play favourites openly
Sibling rivalry: Do not play favourites openly

Africa-PressUganda. If you are the parent who throws punches in the face of conflicts with your spouse, you will not communicate reconciliation. You need to bring your sane self to the table when you are dealing with sibling rivalry.

I returned home the other day only to be welcomed by two faces; one sad, one happy. My children had done exams that morning and one scored 90 per cent and the other 85 per cent. The one who scored 85 per cent was cold. I could not understand why the two were at loggerheads when they are not even in the same class.

Sibling rivalry is the state where children become jealous, competitive, and engage in endless fights. The rivalry is assumed to be normal but it can affect children negatively in future. Stories are told of siblings who harm or even kill each other because they cannot stand the success, talent or privileges of the other.

The first recorded incident of sibling rivalry is in Genesis 4:1-16, where Cain killed his brother Abel because he offered a better sacrifice. So the first murder in the Bible is over worship.

Older children beating up younger ones, pulling their hair or cheeks, accusing them falsely, calling them names, arguing, bullying, tittle-tattling on the other, destroying things that belong to the other, are common and can become a time bomb if not nipped in the bud in their nascent stages. When a child is still the only one in the house, they enjoy all the parents’ attention until another child comes into the picture. The older ones probably think that the younger ones have encroached on the love and the attention they once enjoyed and in some cases this is true.

The Bible patriarch, Jacob, made a mistake when he pampered Joseph, a son born to him in his old age. What followed was regrettable and it took God’s intervention to change the twist of events. The brothers first plotted to murder Joseph, but changed their minds and sold him as a slave. He ended up in Egypt, went through a lot but eventually became a prime minister of that nation.

What causes sibling rivalry?

When children feel they are being unfairly treated by their parents in preference to a sibling, they will hate and rival the favoured one. However, there is a place for unequal treatment. For instance, younger children ought to be given special treatment than older ones because of their vulnerability. Older ones are often given more privileges because of their ability to manage responsibility.

Additionally, some children are born with different temperaments and just like adults, these can be a source of rivalry. Extroverts and introverts are likely to clash with one other. A home where there is fighting and abuse, neglect of children, denying children to basic necessities of life can be a breeding ground for sibling rivalry.

Managing sibling rivalry

Sibling rivalry is normal as long as it is not allowed to get to a destructive stage. Whenever there are two people living in the same space, there are bound to be clashes, disagreements and sometimes fights. As a parent, teach your children how to manage their emotions; you can teach them that the success of one sibling is the success of all the children, after all, it is one family.

Teach them teamwork

Teach them to share strengths and buffer their weaknesses by way of sibling mutual dependence; get them to cooperate rather than compete on a project. If one sibling is gifted in one area and others lack in that particular strength, the gifted one should be taught to liberally share with the rest without making them feel inadequate.

Do not show partiality

You must always stand in as a fair arbitrator in their disagreements and fights even when you know deep inside your heart, you may prefer one child to another. Do not play favourites openly. Be fair. Avoid making comparisons “Look at you, Jane is younger than you but smarter.” ‘You are reckless compared to your sister.”

You can say these words in the heat of the moment when you are frustrated with a child but remember that such statements can inflame the one with who is being cursed to hate the one they are being compared to. Each child is unique. Respect that and nurture their uniqueness.

Model conflict resolution

If you are the parent who throws punches and breaks cups during disagreements with your spouse and neighbours, you sure will not be the parent to communicate reconciliation. You need to bring your sane self to the table when you are dealing with rivalry among your children.

Identify conflict triggers

When are your children most likely to rival each other? What time of day or night? What are the likely causes? Establishing the patterns that trigger rivalry can help you as a parent address them in time before they explode.

Create special moments

Let children have uninterrupted audience with you, listen to them and let them know they are individually special to you. Have regular times to meet as a family. Set an agenda, deliberate on issues, allow each family member to express themselves without interruption and debasing another.


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