Parenting is hard work. It’s messy and imperfect. Could it be that we as parents are responsible for sibling rivalry?

One of the most frustrating aspects of parenting is sibling rivalry. However, this sibling rivalry could be the adverse result of parenting imperfections. Not to say that natural rivalry doesn’t happen at times, but some of these instances do have a deeper origin.

Mistakes that cause rivalry

Unfortunately, the things we do as parents have both positive and negative results. We may have our children’s best interests in mind, but despite good intentions, we make mistakes. Sometimes, as I stated before, sibling rivalry can be the result of these mistakes. Here’s how it works.

1. Pushing children toward acceptance

Although it may seem like the logical thing to do, pushing your children to accept a future sibling applies unneeded pressure. For instance, most parents tell their toddlers, as children are usually toddlers when the next child comes along, that the new baby will be a fun responsibility. They may say, “I bet you cannot wait to be a big sister.”

This statement may seem positive enough but puts heavy responsibilities on the older child. You may also say things about how much fun your child will have with the new baby, but when the time comes, there may be more stress than fun.

A child learns quickly to see through deception, even when that deception is with good intentions. It’s so much better to tell the truth about the coming baby. If you don’t, you can expect a large amount of sibling rivalry between the two.

2. Taking sides during arguments

One of the worst things to do when siblings fight is for parents to take sides. Even though it might seem clear who’s to blame, you may not know or understand the whole story behind the dispute. If you take sides when there’s an argument, siblings will start to resent one another. You will unknowingly cause the start of a sibling rivalry based on competing for the parent’s love.

So, instead of taking sides, parents can listen a bit longer to the story behind the argument. It’s imperative that each child has the same amount of attention during this time to avoid growing resentments toward each other.

Instead of taking sides, consider placing blame evenly between the two and highlight each wrongdoing. This helps the children feel equally loved.

3. Lack of structure

Structure means clear rules and expectations. When rules are set within the household, there will be fewer misunderstandings between children. If the child knows what they can and cannot do, they shouldn’t rival other children in the household when rules are broken. With clear rules, you can implement a clear discipline which is fair and equal.

When there is a lack of structure within a home, there is chaos between children. Needless to say, there is plenty of sibling rivalry. Parents who fail to set clear expectations will have unorganized discipline, placing unfair restrictions on some children and not enough discipline measures on others. It’s a recipe for resentment.

4. Marriage problems

Here’s something you may not have noticed before. Children can detect problems between their parents, and then they tend to act out. They either start replicating the fights between their parents or they act out in rivalry due to the tension in the home. Either way, it can be unhealthy and aggressive.

If there are problems in the relationship, it’s best to keep fights away from the children. Although they will notice sooner or later, any negative vibes will cause anger, sadness, and fear amongst siblings. Keeping the vibes as neutral as possible helps quell this tension.

5. Neglect

Parents may not knowingly neglect their children, but it happens at times. This neglect can cause many issues including sibling rivalry.

The reason it works this way is that neglect makes children find ways to get attention. They are usually satisfied with the negative just as much as positive attention. This is another reason why it’s so important to spend time with your children and make sure they are loved correctly.

In fact, spending one on one time with your child is even better than always spending time with all your children at one time. This face to face time shows that you respect and care for your child’s individual needs. Providing this sort of attention will greatly decrease any sibling rivalry.

6. Comparing children

Any sort of comparison between siblings will most definitely cause rivalry. Now, this doesn’t mean you favor a child, if you compare them, it just means you compare their behavior. Unfortunately, at any given time, you may be prone to ask one child why they cannot act in certain ways like their sibling.

This is when comparisons take on a more negative approach. Parents who compare, even though they mean well, sow seeds of resentment between their children. That’s why comparisons must stop.

Decreasing sibling rivalry

Sibling rivalry may be frustrating and cause you to stress, but think about how it makes children feel. If you’re looking for ways to decrease the frequency of sibling rivalry, then evaluate the way you run your household. Do you engage in comparisons? Are you neglectful? Again, have you set clear and concise rules in your household and remained faithful to these rules?

It is possible to decrease the incidence of sibling rivalry, and all it takes is consistent behavior. In order to raise productive children into adults, parents should take responsibilities for their actions as well. You might be surprised by how your own improved behavior can heal your offspring. I hope this works for you!



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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. SS

    Sherrie, despite kids who are adults in their 40’s today, reading the above article was an eyeopener YES, what is written here is VERY accurate. If only such informatin was available in the early 70’s, they would have been so helpful. Maybe there were books but the only book known was Dr. Bengamin Spock and one literally followed quite a bit from it, except the part when he says let the kid cry and dont pick them up, BS — kids need love warmth!

    Anyways todays parents are so very lucky,they are better informed, there are scores of magazines books and other resources to help them from the time a chid is born & they get to be trained by reading, child councillors and pschyrists.

    So now when one has problems seeing two children all grown up and one has big issues and blames / accuses parents of favoring one child ( though its not true but after having read your article I realize , the accusation is not that one loves one more than other ( though not true, but thought that was what the older one referred to) but that we make excuses for the other or that being younger the critism was less.
    So in short , how does one correct it? Besides reiterating this numerous times , it does not work. I guess in future one has to be more mindful ! Never take sides or never ever interfere when the children are having arguments or issues Leave it to them to resolve their battles!

    1. Sherrie

      Let me just say this: My middle child asked me one day why I did things differently between him and his brother. I told him this: Son, you and your brothers, as he has two brothers, one older and one younger, you are all different. When I raised your older brother, I developed a parenting system which worked well. When I had you, however, this system failed early on, and so I had to develop a completely different way of parenting. Then, I also tried your system on your younger brother, and it too, failed. I tried the system I used on your older brother with your younger brother and it too failed again. Sooooo….

      The point is, and I told my middle child this. I do not love you the same. I cannot love you the same. You are different people, you and either of your brothers. I do love you all in the same amount, just not in the same ways. I see your individualism clearly and I realize that I cannot approach your lives in the same direction.

      To help your children understand that there should be no rivalry, remind them that they are individuals and there is no way that comparisons would even work. As for the parent’s role in this, do not compare your children because it just doesn’t make sense. We are born to be individuals, not copies of our siblings.

      Maybe this will help.

  2. SS

    Thanks Sherrie for your very prompt reply. It truly is seeing out of the box for me. I read it aloud to my husband and one sibling who has come for visit. This one said, ‘what a nice yet perfect way to explain the dilemena’. Thanks, I sure will try when the time’s right to do just what you have mentioned when the accusation comes up again.

    1. Sherrie

      I am so happy that this helps you. Be blessed. 🙂

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