sibling rivalry

When Parents Cause Sibling Rivalry

Siblings’ rivalry is as old as the first set of siblings – Cain and Abel and even twins, Esau and Jacob, in the Bible. Sibling competition can be healthy when it is just a little bit of loving competition between siblings and encouraging themselves to be their best. However, when the word rivalry gets introduced – it has all the traits of being unhealthy and causing tension between siblings. When parents cause sibling rivalry it has long-reaching effects on the siblings and their future relations.


sibling rivalry In the case of Cain and Abel in the Bible, there is no mention of the role the parents might have played in the situation to cause such jealousy that led to such a disastrous end. However the parenting style of Rebecca, the mother of Esau and Jacob, clearly showed how she encouraged the rivalry between her sons. Playing favorites between your children is a  highly flammable liquid in parenting.

Some other notable examples of rivalry are the case of the German founders of Adidas and Puma – two brothers who bitterly fought themselves till their last breath. Apparently, their disagreement was such that they did not speak until their death. They rivalry apparently stemmed from a miscommunication.

Another example is that of Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine, both Academy Award winners, with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and acclaimed for their film roles in the 1930s and ’40s. Their rivalry reportedly started when they were young children vying for their mothers’ attention. It got to a head when their mother passed and they stopped speaking to each other.

Closer to home, there are several stories of siblings who are in court contesting either their father or mother’s will. Some of these stem from the fact that a parent obviously had a favorite child and the belief that the inheritance seemed to favor said child; leading to disagreement. There are several other reasons for these fallouts.

One of the biggest and most important roles of parents is to make sure that their children have good sibling relations. Parents cannot think that just because children come from the same mother and father, they should get along. Wrong! You have to work it out for them.

[Read: Things That Get Easier As Children Get Older]

Parents are the first provider of everything in the formative years for their children. A child looks for acceptance, affirmation, and love from their parents. So if a child for any reason should feel that he or she is inferior or not the çhosen’one, for no fault of their own, it can cause problems for the relationship between siblings.

Parents cannot be the cause of sibling rivalry, rather they must do everything possible to raise children who get along with each other. Teach them how to have disagreements but settle them amicably and learn how to love and get along with themselves. Siblings will be together long after the parents are gone and it must be a parents priority to ensure that their children get along from home.

Accept that your children are different but equal

The introvert is not better than the extrovert and vice versa. Do not show any preference but celebrate their differences.

Teach and enforce that your children must show mutual respect for one another

Nastiness or rudeness among siblings should not be tolerated in the home. Teach them to learn how to care for each other. Do your children say ‘good morning’ to one another? Do they say “please” when making a request, “Thank you” for favours, etc. Courtesy amongst them is the building block for them to have a kind and loving relationship as they grow up into adulthood. Cultivate and model the behaviour you want today. Outlaw the use of strong and abusive language among them.

Misunderstandings are not abnormal.

Disagreements are part of life, however, they do not have to disagree by being disagreeable or rude and nasty to each other. As a parent do not cause sibling rivalry by always siding with one child over the other, always try and hear both sides. Also, encourage them to solve their difference among themselves. Children today spend too much time on devices and are therefore spending less time learning how to communicate and get along with each other. Encourage them to spend time with each other.

Show Justice Openly

You must show that you are fair openly if a child needs to be disciplined for certain behaviors. It is advisable that the children see that you have taken action and you are consistent with it. For example, if you have a no hitting in the house rule, then whoever hits must be punished, no matter which child is responsible for the hitting. Children do not want their parents to be wishy-washy or hyporcitical. These are all the little things that can cause rivalry that might spiral out of control.

Quality Time

Spend quality time with each child as equally as possible. Take the time to share Life lessons with all your children. Do not make it appear that you only feel one child needs to learn over the others.

Teach them to be responsbile for each other

Do not allow them to show more care for outsiders than themselves, for example, do not le them pay more regard to their friends than their siblings. Do not allow a response such as “I dont know where he is” if you ask where his brother is. If they attend the same school, they must be able to look out for each other. Do not encourge a selfish attitude of myself and I. They must look out and be responsible for each others well being and care.

Never ever compare your children or their ‘achievements’

There is a difference between celebrating each other’s excellence and comparing them to each other. Comparing sounds like “can’t you see your sister? can’t you be like her?” versus “That was such a good piano piece you played, what do you think?” And likewise when the other child excels at something you have the other sibling(s) commend them as well. Parents can cause sibling rivalry for sure when they compare their children.

Comparing breeds unhealthy competition. They are complementary to one another not competitors.

And the most important part of it all, be sure to pray daily and ask God to help you raise children who will get along, love themselves and not have any seed of rivalry between them. The home is the best place to teach your children to love each other and to care for each other. As a parent be intentional and ensure that you do not create an environment that can breed unhealthy sibling rivalry.

Lastly, I cannot say it enough, never ever allow a whiff of the odour of preferential treatment in your house.

Watch this video on the Parental Curse of the Favourite Child. 

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