Sibling Rivalry – The Struggle
Parents with multiple children often struggle with sibling rivalry in their families. This has been a problem for all of history. In fact, the very first family mentioned in the Bible had a problem with it too! That sibling rivalry ended in murder.
Rivalry among siblings often displays itself in fighting, bullying, and jealousy. As parents, what can be done to work through these issues so children grow up to have a healthy respect for each other? It is essential to understand the factors that contribute to sibling rivalry and learn helpful tips for defusing it.
Sibling Rivalry – Contributing Factors
A myriad of factors contribute to sibling rivalry.
Oftentimes, children are competing for parental attention. A child may start a fight, act aggressively, or tattle on a sibling in order to get the parent involved. As parents, it is important to be intentional about spending time with each child. Try to find a time and place where your attention is not divided. Each child needs reassurance that he is loved and that the parent values his opinion.
Comparing children also contributes to sibling rivalry. Children are always going to compare themselves with their siblings. She has an iPod, but I don’t. He is a faster runner than I am. Comparison is a natural tendency, but parents can be intentional about praising a child’s unique skill or accomplishments. It is also wise to avoid negative comparisons like, “If only you were smart like your sister.”
Avoid playing favorites. When a fight breaks out, don’t assume you know the perpetrator.
Sibling Rivalry – Helpful Advice From Other Parents
When asked how they have dealt with sibling rivalry, parents responded with these helpful tips.
Sibling Rivalry – Biblical Example
A great example of sibling rivalry occurs in twins Jacob and Esau. They competed for their parents’ attention—one as the momma’s boy and one as his father’s favorite. Isaac, the father, clearly favored Esau because he was a great hunter. Rebecca, the mother, loved the sensitive Jacob more. This favoritism resulted in terrible jealousy and made the brothers into enemies. Next came deception and physical threats of murder. The relationship was broken and the brothers went separate ways.
Years later, the brothers had opportunity to reconcile and did so. The Bible is unclear on the extent of their reconciliation, but we know they lived somewhat amicably with one another. The way Isaac and Rebekah raised Jacob and Esau directly impacted their future and it resulted in a long break in their relationship.
Parents may not be able to completely end a sibling rivalry, but by modeling proper behavior and treating each child with dignity, love, and respect, parents can show the path to positive sibling relationships.