Sibling Rivalry: The Psychology Behind It And How To Manage

Sibling Rivalry: The Psychology Behind It And How To Manage

There's nothing more relatable to parents than constantly having to manage their children’s constant squabbling. Indeed, the idea that there might be households without sibling rivalry is almost unfathomable. But as normalized as it is, sibling rivalry can have long-lasting effects on your children's self-perception and their family relationships.

In this article, we will be diving deeper into the psychology of sibling rivalry and, most importantly, how to manage sibling rivalry.


What Is The Cause Of Sibling Rivalry?

Sibling rivalry can be defined as the ongoing competition between brothers and sisters. Though there seem to be no clear or significant reasons for these fights, sibling rivalry is driven by your children's individual perception of fairness.

But, there are several causes for sibling rivalry. The biggest cause can be the competition for their parent's love and attention. If a child observes their sibling receiving more praise and attention from their parents, the child might grow to resent them. This can cause the child to lash out against the sibling, which in turn causes the praised child to retaliate. Thus, 1109a sibling rivalry emerges. Another similar situation is the birth of a new child: many firstborn children fear that they will completely lose the love and attention of his/her parents once a new child is brought in.


Are Parents To Blame For Sibling Rivalry?

The role of parents in sibling rivalry is very significant. Being human, it can be difficult to be impartial with your children, especially when considering their different positions in the family, personalities and needs. When children are involved, each action and word counts as children are at their most susceptible when they are young. Parents often don't realize how much their words might affect their children, whether or not they're on the receiving end of it.

But, it is not sufficient to treat your children equally, as your children might desire. Different situations warrant different degrees of attention and guidance. The key is to recognize the different circumstances and situations and to treat your child accordingly.


What Are The Negative Effects Of Sibling Rivalry?

According to a study on family dynamics in 2021, sibling bullying can be linked to a lower sense of competence, satisfaction in life and self-esteem in young adults. Earlier research also found that severe sibling rivalry doubled the risk of depression and self-harm in early adulthood.            

Since sibling relationships are one of the first and most significant relationships a child forms with another person, sibling rivalry can have a deep impact on a child's mental and physiological health. Even teasing and making fun of a sibling can have long-lasting effects on a child. According to Shawn Whiteman, PhD, a professor of human development and family studies at Utah State University, "Sibling relationships predict youth outcomes above and beyond the influence of parents and peers."


What Are The Advantages Of Sibling Rivalry?

Surprisingly, there are some benefits of having sibling rivalry, albeit healthy sibling rivalries. But what is a healthy sibling rivalry? Simply, it is a rivalry in which each sibling doesn't see the other as destructive to one's happiness. Instead, a healthy sibling rivalry gives each sibling the incentive to reach greater heights.

Sibling rivalries can be used to one's advantage by using it as an opportunity to learn how to be assertive and stand up for oneself. Children can also learn important life lessons like the resolution of disagreements and conflicts. As a parent, you can guide your children through this, teaching your child how to channel their anger and rivalry for the good of themselves and their family. Teaching them proper, decent values that can assist them in various situations of conflict can be truly beneficial when raising a child.


Tips For Managing Sibling Rivalry

Though it is not always easy, there are certain tactics you can use to manage sibling rivalries so that it does not blow out of proportion and cause potentially harmful problems in your child's future. Here are some of the most important and efficient ones:

  • Create a cooperative environment

Make your home an environment where your child won't feel hesitant to approach you about their problems. Avoid comparisons between your children, as this will only fuel their resentment. Instead, create opportunities to cooperate and compromise.

  • Celebrate individuality

Appreciate and teach your children to appreciate each child's individuality. Awarding each child's unique achievements and teaching your children to celebrate their siblings' uniqueness. This not only promotes self-esteem and confidence but also dispels any fear of being overshadowed by others' success as you have taught your child to be comfortable in their own strengths.

  • Make plans to spend time together as a family

Spending time together as a family, eating dinner together, going on trips or simply having a family conversation are great ways to bind and share positive memories together. These moments give children less incentive to quarrel and give them more opportunity to reminisce together and spend time with you.

  • Listen

When your children approach you with their problems, don't default to blaming the one who initiated the fight. Listen to each child's version of the story, including the events leading up to the fight, try to be objective as possible and finally make the most rational decision based on what you heard. Don't punish your children to reprimand them for their bad behaviour, but teach them the errors in their ways.

  • Equip your children with problem-solving tools.

To avoid future conflicts, use disagreements as a way to provide your child with tools to either avoid or solve future problems in a positive manner.

  • Make discipline private

If a conflict between siblings requires discipline, avoid reprimanding them in public. This can embarrass the child in front of their siblings and thus aggravates the sibling rivalry. Handling it privately is respectful to their boundaries, and you'll be able to tackle the problem more efficiently.

  • Be a role-model

Children often take cues from the most prominent figures in their environment: in this case, their parents. When you have problems with your spouse, friends and family, try to handle it respectfully and lovingly - in the way you would like your child to handle it. Doing so will encourage your children to adopt these healthy conflict-resolution skills themselves.


Final Words

Although managing sibling rivalries can seem exhausting and repetitive, doing so is truly beneficial for the entire family. The more intentional you are about parenting, the easier it will be. But the most important thing to realize is that the most effective way to manage sibling rivalry is to lead by example and turn the rivalry into a deep and unbreakable connection.