My brother and I are 18 months apart. All our lives we have competed. We competed for attention, money, rides, TV/computer time, chores, and almost anything else. I am older and most of the time I felt like the “trial” child. What did or didn’t work with me got corrected with my brother. I am not a parent, however, I can provide some examples of what I wished my parents would have done differently. The following are some examples of how I would suggest parents deal with or prevent sibling rivalry.
When I was sixteen years old I got my drivers license. This probably being the biggest accomplishment in a young teenage life, was something that I had been working towards for a year. Right when I received my license I also got some ground rules. I couldn’t drive too far out of town, or with friends in the car. All of these were fine with me, all I wanted was to drive to school instead of taking the school bus. Soon my parents realized that since my brother almost always slept past the school bus, I was there to take him to school every day. Taking the bus to school was something I had to “endure” up until I got my hard earned license and I didn’t understand why my brother didn’t have to go through the same work. I hated the fact that I had to do all the work and earn my ride to school, where my brother simply got a ride because it was more convenient than him missing the school bus every day. When my brother finally got his license, my parents did not set the same ground rules they had set for me. This is just one example of the feeling I had about sibling rivalry. I felt that, being the older child, I always had to work for all the extras I got, where my brother always benefited from the work I had done. I would suggest that parents follow the EXACT same rules with each child. Yes, every child is an individual and has his/her own level of responsibility, but it is not fair to the first child, who had to work for what they got, to watch their siblings simply have it handed to them.
Another example was when I wanted a cell phone. My parents told me that since I had a job, I could work to earn money for a phone. This was fine with me, I am okay with working for what I want. However, once my brother found out I got a phone, he wanted one too. He didn’t have a job. So my parents decided to buy him a phone and continue paying for it. Again, I felt like BECAUSE I worked, I had to pay for the extras when my younger brother did not. When I am a parent I plan on providing my children with the basics, however if they want extras they are going to have to work for them. I wanted a cell phone and I worked for it. I am going to tell my children the same thing. If they want it they need to go out and do the work to get it.
The final piece of advice I would give to a parent would be do not hold double standards. Because I was a girl there were many things that my younger brother was allowed to do at an age that I would not have been allowed to do them. One example from my childhood was walking to our local ice cream stand which was about a mile away. My friends and I were allowed to walk there when we turned 13 years old. However my brother and his friends started walking there when they were much much younger. When I asked my parents why, they said it was because he was a boy! I felt put down, like I am supposed to be the weaker sex. This double standard is something that I will never do to my children. I want them to feel like they can accomplish anything. Girls can do whatever the boys do and vis versa.
Although there was a lot of sibling competition between my brother and I, my parents also did many things to prevent this. I remember at Christmas time my parents always tried to spend the same amount of money on each of us. Even if that meant that if I got one really expensive thing then my brother got more less expensive presents. My parents went to great lengths most of the time to make us feel equal. As a result I grew up in an amazing and loving home. Sibling rivalry is always going to exist. It’s instinct, dogs compete for mothers milk, that is how they survive. The goal for parents is to learn to think about situations from both points of view, do not just do what is easiest for you, do what makes equal sense for each child.