Sibling Rivalry is Universal in Families

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Sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel and as current as the latest argument at this morning’s breakfast table. Anyone who has at least one sibling has experienced its dynamics.
Whenever there is more than one child living in a family, sibling rivalry will naturally occur. However, petty arguments between brothers and sisters do have some basis and understandable causes. Every child has the primal desire to be loved, to have emotional security, in addition to the basic needs of food, clothing and a guidance-oriented environment. When there are two parents who are the source of all these needs, the more children who are living in a home, the more parents will be divided in their efforts to provide.
Children occasionally sense that parents may not have all that it takes to meet the family’s needs, so with feelings of momentary panic, children may start fighting for a perceived need with their threatening siblings.
This constant rivalry is irritating to parents, and requires a fair amount of their time to negotiate solutions between children, as well as eventually teach them how to fend for themselves in a less confrontational manner.
Of course, one positive aspect of sibling rivalry is that it does provide children with the opportunity to practice the give and take that children will be confronted with every day of their lives with others outside of their home.
On New Year’s Day, I received word that my only sibling, my older brother, had suddenly passed away. In the days since, I’ve been processing the loss of the only person who shared my childhood upbringing and the parents who loved and provided for us equally.
Of course, we also grew up with a normal amount of sibling rivalry. But the sibling rivalry of childhood fades, and what remains is what my brother and I shared of value, growing up in the same loving environment.
What I will be forever missing is the only other person who shared the history and details of the early part of our lives, and memories of our parents who gave us a firm foundation for launching.
Parents can begin talking to their children now about how valuable sibling relationships can be for them as they grow and eventually leave the childhood home. These are the people who will share a history, and remember the love of the same parents. There is great value in encouraging positive sibling relationships and homegrown friendships.
In an effort to offset inevitable sibling rivalry, I would encourage parents to work harder at building a spirit of “Team Family” in their home, emphasizing ways to encourage one another and to work together as well as play together.
Children should attend each other’s games, music recitals and events marking progress and highlighting talent, and celebrate each family member’s successes as well as being supportive in times of struggle.
Sibling rivalry will not disappear any time soon, but parents can find ways to minimize the petty bickering and emphasize the benefits of sibling friendship and family bonding, for now and for the future.

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