“It's my turn! He has more than I do! It's not yours, it's mine! I want the same as her! I don't want to share my room or my toys with my brother! It's his fault, I didn't do anything...” If you have more than one child or are in a blended family, these words are probably familiar to you. Sibling rivalry often manifests itself as competition, jealousy, bickering or aggressive behaviour between siblings. It is important to be aware that some children will not express their feelings openly, but may feel hurt despite their silence.
To prevent tension in the family and avoid affecting the children's relationship in the long term, I propose to explore how sibling rivalries can manifest themselves, what their impacts are as well as strategies to minimize them.
It seems utopian to think that there are families who don’t bicker, but it is far from impossible! Conflicts between siblings are common and natural, as each child is unique. Conflicts teach fundamental skills, such as sorting out acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and learning to resolve conflicts on their own. These lessons will be useful in other aspects of their lives.
In their family, children experience a lot of emotions. They target each other when their emotions overflow: joy, complicity, surprise, admiration, love and compassion, but also anger, frustration, irritation, resentment, etc. Between fusion and rivalry, siblings build their identity and their childhood memories.
Each child is unique and has his or her own needs and preferences. However, ages and personalities may play a role in how siblings view their relationship and how children handle their conflicts. For example, the older child may be able to watch television later in the evening or go to the park to play with friends without parental supervision. Younger children can be excused for hitting older siblings or breaking a toy because they are small and do not understand everything. Middle children have a special place; they are often indecisive. Sometimes they want to have the same privileges as the older sibling, sometimes they want to be little again.
In a family, each child has a place that has its advantages and disadvantages. It is not always easy to live together when, every day, rivalries can be accentuated by differences in age, interests or personalities. Parents can help reduce sibling rivalry and promote more harmonious relationships by understanding the different needs of each child.
Without realizing it, parents may engage in behaviours that amplify the fear of being less loved or the sense of inequality in some of their children. Here are some examples:
The onset of sibling rivalry often occurs when a new sibling joins the family. The fear of sharing parental love may then grow. Here are some strategies to explain and counteract this sense of rivalry felt by the child.
I suggest you experiment with the plate analogy. The first step is to take an empty plate, show it to your oldest child and ask this question: “This plate represents the love we have for you: how do you think that love has changed since your two brothers joined the family?”
Most children will be happy to answer, drawing on the plate with their finger: “The love you have for me is divided into three equal parts.” Then say to oldest child, showing him the plate: “This plate still represents the love we have for you, even since your two brothers joined the family. We love you with all our hearts and that hasn't changed.”
Afterwards, place two more plates next to the first one and tell you child, in your own words, this truth: “These three plates are the love we have for the three of you. Do you see? It's a different kind of love, but our love for each of you is complete. Love is not divided; our heart is big enough to love our three children completely. Since you are not the same people, we love you just as much, and for life, but differently. So, we may not make the same choices for each of you because you have different needs, ages, temperaments, strengths and challenges. But remember this. We love each of you very much.”
It is important to address sibling rivalry with your children in an open and honest way. I suggest that you begin by listening carefully to your children, allowing them to express their feelings about their siblings freely. Finally, dare to tell them that you don't love them the same, but that you love them all just as hard. This will reassure them of the place each of them has in your life.
Sibling rivalry can affect a child's perception of their own worth and importance within the family. The feeling of being less seen and acknowledged can lead to feelings of rejection, stress or sadness and prevent the development of healthy self-confidence and self-esteem.
Sibling rivalry can harm social and family relationships, leading to conflict and difficult communication between family members. If left unresolved, it can sometimes strain family relationships and affect a child's ability to develop positive interpersonal relationships.
Sibling rivalries can be difficult for parents to manage and can have long-term effects on family relationships. However, it is important to recognize that these conflicts are not unusual. They allow children to learn conflict resolution! By fostering communication, avoiding comparisons, and providing equal treatment to all your children, you can help them change their perception of these differences. By believing that they are as much a part of the family as their brothers and sisters, they will be able to recognize their own strengths and the strengths of others, and then value them without fear.
*Some conditions and limitations apply.