April 2, 2012

Dealing with Sibling Rivalry for Siblings and their Parents

Keri Hannukainen, 4-H Youth Mentor
Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent

Although many siblings end up best friends, that road can be a rocky one with sibling rivalries. Sibling rivalry offers opportunities in youth development by helping children learn to share, be competitive, and manage anger issues. Instances of conflict are an opportunity for parents to express their equal and unconditional love to their children.

Parents should realize that children need to be loved for themselves and their own individual talents. If children feel they are receiving positive attention from their parents, they are less apt to start a conflict. Also remember that children are learning social and communication skills. A child may pick a fight to get attention.

Parents need to step back and let the children resolve their issues. Establishing rules that include no hitting or biting. Teach children to express anger with words. Introduce techniques of problem solving, such as walking away or counting. If you need to step in, ask the children to define the problem and come up with a list of solutions. If you think the children are capable of solving the issue, then don’t intervene. Lastly, don’t let your children fight in front of you. Show confidence they can solve the problem without you involved.

The suggestions below are for the children in the family written by Keri Hannukainen (who has a sister):

If you have brothers or sisters, you know what sibling rivalry is. But do you know why you fight? While some 4-H’ers may be lucky enough to be best friends with their siblings, others are not as fortunate. Sibling rivalry stems from a variety of factors, but in most cases, jealousy is the main cause. So, how can you end all arguments with your siblings and have a happier and less stressful life? Try out the following suggestions and find out!

First, identify why you are fighting. Is it because you are jealous of the amount of attention that a younger sibling receives from your parents? Is it because you feel neglected when your sibling is praised for his or her success in 4-H or sporting competitions? Or is because you are simply bored and wish for your sibling to interact with you?

If you fight because you feel neglected, tell your parents. They should comfort and reassure you that they love you all equally. If you feel unloved because your parents compare you to your siblings, explain to your parents how this makes you feel and ask them to stop. Comparisons between siblings only damage relationships and make someone feel hurt.

If you fight with your siblings because you are bored and want them to play with you, consider another approach. There are healthier ways to engage your siblings. Simply ask them to play with you. You should also consider a hobby if you find yourself bored enough to pick a fight with your siblings.

The desire to fight might also stem from your developing needs. As a child, you have a strong sense of fairness and equality. When you see that your younger sibling is getting more attention or is being treated differently, you may resent your sibling for this. As a teenager, your growing sense of individuality and independence may cause you to resent having to spend time with family members. These different needs may cause you to fight with your siblings.

When you fight with your siblings, do not involve your parents unless the fight is becoming physical. If you involve your parents, you will not learn how to resolve conflicts on your own. In addition, when a parent solves a conflict, they may inadvertently make it appear that one child is always being “protected.” This may further breed resentment among you and your siblings. Furthermore, the “rescued” child may feel like they can get away with more as a result of this intervention.

To resolve your conflict, understand that it takes two people to have an argument. You cannot blame your sibling as the cause for starting the argument. Since you are both responsible, you should both be involved in the process of resolving it. In order to resolve a conflict, you must first identify why you are fighting. Then, list all of the possible solutions and agree on the best option; the best solutions have positive results for both parties. If you cannot resolve your conflict due to your anger, walk away so that you can cool down. Arguments are much more easily solved when neither party is blinded by their anger.

If territorial problems are the source of your arguments, you should create times and places where you can do your own thing without having to share with your siblings. Ask your parents to help you create a schedule where you can play with toys, hang with friends, or even just relax without interference from your siblings. In addition, if you and your siblings have separate rooms, avoid going into each other’s rooms. Your rooms are your zones where you can relax without your siblings and should be kept this way.

If the fight becomes physical, get help from your parents immediately. If you are being hit, bit, scratched, shoved, or even tickled excessively, these are signs of sibling abuse. You must tell your parent about the abuse so that your parent can properly deal with the situation.

Sibling rivalry, while a common occurrence in most households, does not have to damage relationships or create stress. Using these suggestions, you should be able to build your relationships with your siblings, have a more relaxed life, and develop social and anger management skills.

For more information for 4-H’ers or other youth, please click on the link:

For more information for parents, please click on the link:

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