Sibling Rivalries in Children and Teens

Having more than one child is a life-altering decision, and it’s met with a wide range of emotions and expectations. You might imagine your kids playing happily together, growing up to be lifelong best buddies, and even holding hands. You might fantasize that your offspring will grow up to be inseparable best friends and use a code language known only to them. In general, parents encourage a close relationship between children. But how do you handle it if your kids aren’t best friends but instead have sibling rivalries?

Don’t worry too much if your kids are starting to act competitive with each other. This is a much more common occurrence than you might think, affecting many different kinds of families. Sibling rivalry is common, and healthy rivalry between children of the same age is important for their growth and development. As parents, we are responsible for recognizing the transition from friendly competition to destructive sibling rivalry.

As a parent, your ability to sense when this change is happening will determine how effectively you can intervene. There are many ways to foster in your children the type of close relationship you lacked growing up. The conflict between siblings is common, but it usually doesn’t last forever. If you can figure out why your kids are acting this way, you can find a way to keep them, friends as they get older. The key to maintaining a close bond with an older sibling is easy to find out if you just ask around.

All sibling relationships are susceptible to sibling rivalry. All kinds of families, including biological, adoptive, and step, have this dynamic. This is evident upon the first child’s arrival into a family with other children or upon the addition of step- or adopted children to an existing family.

Sibling rivalry, or healthy competition between siblings, is a normal part of development. Sibling rivalry is common in families with multiple children, especially when children are competing for their parent’s attention. Jealousy of one sibling’s success often develops into resentment and harms sibling relationships as children get older.

If your children are young, you may find it easier to manage sibling rivalry than if they were older. It can be challenging to know when to intervene as a parent of an older child or teen. If you have a rocky relationship with your sibling when you’re a teenager, it may continue to be a problem when you’re an adult. It’s never too late to step in and help mend sibling relationships, even if you’re dealing with teen rivalries.

Adolescent Thought Processes

When discussing adolescent sibling rivalry, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how the brain functions. The frontal lobe of the brain is the last to mature. The frontal lobe, the brain’s “impulse control center,” isn’t typically fully developed until age 26. This means that young people, especially adolescents, lack the self-control of their adult counterparts.

Research has also shown that adolescents have a more easily triggered reward center in the brain. Teenagers are hardwired to act on impulse because their brains have not fully developed the circuitry to regulate impulse control, and because their reward systems are more readily accessible. Parents can benefit from learning about the adolescent brain in order to gain insight into the causes of sibling conflict.

Exactly what is the deal with all this sibling rivalry?

Especially as they enter adolescence, children and adolescents seek praise and approval from various sources, including their peers and parents. Even if they don’t say so, most teenagers crave their parents’ approval and praise. Sibling rivalry and conflict are common outcomes when one child witnesses their parents lavishing attention on another. They seek social acceptance just as much as they do parental approval.

The nature of sibling rivalry is one of healthy competition. Children’s struggles can be attributed to more than just a desire to be the center of attention. The desire for personal space, a struggle for TV remote control, or a rivalry over academics, social status, or talent are all examples of conflicts that couples commonly face. Some siblings may feel inferior because they lack the talent or skill that a sibling excels at.

Who is most affected by sibling rivalry depends on a variety of factors? The order in which children are born, the make-up of the family, and any history of mental or physical illness or disability are all examples. Siblings of the same sex are more likely to fight, and younger siblings often demand the same rights as their older siblings.

Some children engage in sibling rivalry to gain favoritism by attacking one another. Sharing the focus that was once solely on them can be particularly difficult for a firstborn child. This is perfectly normal, and parents should not worry. If you’re expecting another child, it’s a great opportunity to shower the eldest with extra affection.

How And When Parents Should Intervene

It can be challenging for a parent to determine when it is appropriate to intervene in a squabble. Parents may need to mediate conflicts more frequently when their children are younger. However, it is preferable to let siblings work out their differences without outside intervention. Motivate them to come up with answers so they can practice solving problems.

When things get out of hand, letting your children explain what happened can be helpful. Be sure not to take sides and always listen to both children and their points of view. Make it clear that physical violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Make a point of recognizing and praising children when they are successful in resolving conflicts on their own. Young people should be taught the value of apologies and the importance of being able to accept them from others. Included in this is the use of the phrase “I’m sorry” by parents to their children and one another.

Your willingness to work toward mending fences sends a powerful message to your children. Children will internalize the norm that it is acceptable to settle disagreements through violence if they never see adults model this behavior themselves. Maintaining a positive role model attitude can aid in handling sibling disputes and finding solutions.

Getting To Know Each and Every One Of The Kids

It’s possible that spending individual time with each of your kids can help reduce sibling rivalry. Finding quality time to spend with each member of a large family can be challenging. Create routines where you spend particular time with each child individually. These don’t have to be long and involve; they can be as simple as going out for ice cream at a favorite shop once a week, going for a walk, or sharing a favorite book. A child’s uniqueness and worth should be highlighted in the ritual.

Children’s dependence on their parents changes as they mature, but it does not diminish. Teens are going through a period of development in which they may push away from their parents as they find their independence, which can lead to increased family conflict. It’s important to find activities that both of you can participate in and enjoy. Those shared experiences can come from anything from hooping to running to cooking to watching a show on TV.

Arranging one-on-one time with each kid helps them feel special and loved. No child needs to compete with his sibling for attention when they each feel like they are of equal worth. Obviously, one-on-one time isn’t the only solution to sibling rivalry. Building close bonds within your family also require setting aside time to spend together.

As kids and teenagers get older, it’s easy to lose sight of how crucial play truly is to their development. Plan some games for the whole family to enjoy together, but keep in mind that sibling rivalry can add an extra layer of fun and excitement to any game. There may be better ideas than a night of games with the family. Consider alternative activities, such as going on a walk or helping out at a local charity.

When It’s Time to Get Help For Sibling Strife

Sibling rivalry isn’t always easy to resolve. It’s not always possible for parents to handle everything on their own, especially when problems run deeper. When children have a difficult time getting along, one or both may develop low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety. When a child shows signs of suicidal ideation or threats, such as withdrawing from his family and losing interest in previously enjoyed activities, parents should take note.

Therapy for the whole family or coaching for the parents might help. You have not failed as a parent or done anything improper by needing assistance from others. If sibling rivalry escalates to physical violence, does not decrease in response to setting clear limits and enforcing consequences, or if a child’s mental health is negatively impacted in any way (including the development of depression or anxiety), then it is likely that professional assistance will be required to resolve the conflict.

Foster Happy Relationships Between Siblings

To maintain a healthy relationship, you need to devote time, energy, and dedication to it. By keeping in mind the following guidelines, parents can aid their children in developing healthier relationships:

  • Don’t show favoritism, and remember that each of your kids is special.
  • Be patient and understanding as the children argue.
  • Be sure they are aware of the no-hitting rule and other family expectations.
  • You should let kids work out their problems on their own.
  • Motivate people to work together to find solutions and be sensitive to one another’s feelings.

The good news is that despite their occasional fighting, siblings usually end up loving and caring for each other deeply. Nonetheless, this process may take longer than expected for some sets of twins or siblings. Don’t force your kids to be friends, no matter how much you want them to. They’ll get there whenever they’re ready.

By modeling respectful behavior and encouraging close bonds among family members, parents can help set the stage for their children’s future success. There will be less fighting between siblings because each child will feel loved, valued, and respected.

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