By Rachael Abrams, LCSW-C
Ask anyone with more than one child if their kids get along and you’re likely to hear some version of “they get along great when they get along but they can fight over the most ridiculous things.” I’d say the same about my own two boys who regularly play beautifully together but certainly know how to push each other’s buttons. Rarely does a day go by when they don’t argue over who sits at a particular seat at the counter.
There are many different types of families and each one is unique and has its benefits. Some people feel that no bond is typically longer, often stronger and hopefully more comforting than the relationship between siblings. Siblings know you in a way that others don’t, simply because of the time spent together. The by-product of this is an intimacy and a familiarity that often can’t be replicated. Resolving conflicts, negotiating and vying for attention – all things we do with our siblings – are things we do as adults. An older sibling who is used to taking care of a younger brothers and sisters might show nurturing ways in adulthood. A younger sibling may be more apt to go with the flow in later years.
Parents with two or more children can’t help but be concerned about sibling rivalry, described as jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters. These behaviors happen for many reasons, some of which include competing for attention, feeling that a situation is unfair, or reacting to a host of different family dynamics.
What parents should remember is that sibling rivalry is natural and can yield positive results. The skills that siblings develop through interactions with one another often stay with them through adulthood. For instance, arguing with one another allows siblings to express their feelings and practice empathy as they learn to consider someone else’s viewpoint. Siblings also come to understand that not everyone operates, thinks and behaves in the same way. Disagreeing helps them develop conflict resolution skills, while realizing that life isn’t always fair. Living with a sibling hones social skills like compromising, taking turns, and sharing a parent’s attention.
Here are a few helpful reminders when it comes to promoting successful sibling relationships and managing sibling rivalry:
- Show your kids how you want them to act. Model polite behaviors in your personal relationships with others.
- Don’t tolerate negative and harmful behaviors amongst siblings. Teach them how to negotiate, compromise and to look for beneficial solutions.
- Promote a sense of responsibility for one another. Help children be aware of their siblings’ needs and encourage them to have each other’s backs.
- When your children argue, don’t take sides. Allow them to work out minor disagreements on their own and only step in for serious situations.
- Resist pressure to treat your children equally, instead, treat them individually. Each child has different needs and interests.
- Avoid showing favoritism. Let your children know that you value each of them on their own merits.
- As children get older, encourage them to maintain a connection with each other. Build in monthly family time to encourage this relationship.
Be realistic – siblings won’t ever get along 100% of the time and that’s okay. Nonetheless, there are many ways parents can do their part to help children see the gift they have in their sibling.
By Rachael Abrams, LCSW-C, JCS Outreach Coordinator
Because parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.