The Bible relates that sibling rivalry started with the very first family, when jealous Cain killed brother Abel. Romulus and Remus may have argued about which brother was the real founder of Rome. Parent preference for Raymond in “Everyone Loves Raymond” was his brother Robert’s main gripe
Troublesome relationships between siblings have always been a natural form of family competition. For parents who want a peaceful household, keeping peace among the kids is one of your primary responsibilities. You may not be able to stop the rivalries, but there are ways to keep it under a level of parental control.
1. Don’t play favorites: A critical moment when sibling rivalry starts is when the new baby is brought home. If there is only one other child, the sudden transfer of parental love and care to the new arrival can be troubling.
2. Gently tone down the resentment and anxiety: Be sure the older child has been prepared emotionally for the birth for several months. Talk positively about the anticipation of having a new playmate, another family member and how the older child will be involved in the care for the new sibling.
3. Be a peacemaker: There will be inevitable disputes and arguments among siblings. There’s nothing a parent can do to stop them from starting. Among very young and school-age kids, fights will erupt over toys, food, TV programs and a host of other reasons. It may not always be necessary to intervene, but when it’s not being resolved peacefully, the parent must step in.
A parent’s only recourse in such outbursts of sibling rivalry is fairness, and equally applied. A familiar example is when a new puppy or kitten joins the family. The kids argue about in who’s bed the new pet will nap. Firmly inform the combatants that the pet snooze will alternate each day.
4. Listen beyond the words: When the kids get older, there will be many more rivalry issues to deal with than toys and pets. One child may excel in sports or academics, and receive constant praise from everyone, especially parents.
The other could become jealous and resentful. The angry one may not say it aloud, but parents must look and listen for the signs. The solution is for parents to make extra efforts to encourage and help the other child improve.
5. It doesn’t get any easier: Even after the nest is empty, parents still must cope with sibling rivalry. They must make fair decisions in determining how to help grown children with college costs, job seeking and housing for new families. Even the ultimate decision, sharing parents’ estates, has to be accomplished with care and consideration.
Keeping the peace and treating sibling rivalries intelligently is a never-ending, lifetime commitment for parents. Whether it’s about pets, toys, achievements or estates, decisions must be fair to all concerned.