Divorce is not the only indicator of our family
breakdown. Many families are struggling with the problem of sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is the strife between brothers and/or sisters that leads to bickering and fighting—and now even murder.
Recently, the CBS program 48 Hours fea-
tured the story of a 12-year-old girl allegedly murdered by her 14-year-old brother and two of his friends. The prosecutor in the case stated that the boy’s motive in the murder was sibling ri- valry. The boy was upset by his sister’s success. He considered her a real threat. Details of the case show that the young girl was gruesomely stabbed to death in her own bedroom.
So sibling rivalry and violence is not new. But
do families have to live with it? Is it possible to have real lasting peace within our families?
Many parents with more than one child are expressing a sense of helplessness in stopping
what appears to be all-out war raging inside their own homes. Unfortunately, sibling rivalry has become a huge problem for many families—especially families that are bringing together two sets of stepchildren.
To become well educated on the problem, parents must first learn the root causes of sibling rivalry. Envy and jealousy
for another’s talents or material possessions is an obvious root cause. Who has not witnessed one child upset over another child’s success or acquisition of a new toy? This cause of sibling rivalry reflects a character issue and must be dealt with through strong teaching and discipline with the individual child. But there is a more serious cause for strife among siblings. Brothers and sisters will fight with each other when they experience a deficit of time, attention, love and approval from their parents. This is so simple to understand, but so easy to overlook.
Parents must recognize that most sibling battles are a symptom of the parents not providing enough time, attention, love
and approval for each child. It doesn’t take long to recognize that when each child receives ample parental attention, even petty envies and jealousies decrease. It is important to spend quality time with your children. Even the child who is having the most difficulty doing the right thing still requires the same amount of love. Sibling rivalry can be carried into relationships causing long lasting effects. It is essential to maintain positive communication and be open to constructive criticism.
5 Ways to Help Prevent Rivalry
Circle of Moms author Sharon Silver recog- nizes that while most parents work to avoid arguments, that fighting actually teaches kids
valuable skills. She suggests that parents work to avoid the rivalry which can cause lifetime damage between brothers and sisters. Her advice?
1. Don’t Be Judge and Jury
Most parents think that part of their job entails being both judge and jury. The problem with that is that the kids don’t learn how to resolve things themselves. When a parent decides who is right and who is wrong and what should be done about that, one child remains angry and one feels like the winner. They’re not working together to practice the resolution skills that they’ll need to be suc- cessful in life.
2. Instead, Be a Facilitator
To get your kids to be on the same team, you need to help facilitate and guide them toward resolution of their own fights. You do that by teaching your kids how to express the feelings that motivated the fight in the first place. Put the same questions to both children until resolution has occurred. For example:
Molly, why are you mad? And Sam, why are you mad?
Molly, please give me there ideas to work this out. And Sam, what are your three ideas?
3. Explain That We Do Not Hurt Those We Love
Since kids are immature thinkers, the best way to enforce this rule is to define it further. This might sound like, “One way someone gets hurt is by accident. The other way is when someone uses his or her body as part of a fight. Which one is against the law in our house?”
When a child is busted for physically fighting with a sibling do not expect him or her to say, “Gee mom, that was handled so calmly, I appreciate your wisdom.” They’re angry. Try not to address the anger, just yet. You can say, “I’d be angry too if I had to lose my video time because I was fighting.” If you demand that your child not be angry, you’re walking into a power struggle.
4. Don’t Compare Your Kids
Comparing makes a child feel unappreciated and unloved by you. It never makes them rise up to work harder. Some kids increase the fighting with a sibling when they feel compared to him or her. Other kids swallow those feelings and seethe with resentment and lack of self worth.
5. Focus on Each Sibling’s Unique Talents
Each child deserves and needs to be seen as someone spe- cial, with unique talents and skills. Help your kids create high self-esteem by using “specific praise,” not global praise, as you focus on their unique talents
LivingWELL • February 2012 7 LivingWELL • August 2011
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