Dr Richard C. Woolfson
Sibling rivalry is so common that most psychologists now regard it as normal. Rest assured that your children are not the only ones to fight with each other – and seemingly for no reason at all.
In most cases, the actual trigger of a particular incident is not what the fight is all about. Dig deep enough, and you’ll probably find a more long-lasting resentment between your children that has built up over months and years, and usually remains dormant. Here are some possibilities:
1. They don’t feel special enough. Each of your children has a basic emotional need to feel loved and valued by you. Whatever his or her individual personality, all it takes for a fight to break out is for one of them to feel insecure about his relationship with you.
2. They think you compare them with each other. Most parents inadvertently compare their kids with each other. Do your best to value each of yours for who he is, and not for how well he compares to his brother or sister, or resentment will brew.
3. They feel they don’t have personal space. Your home becomes more and more crowded as the number of your offspring increases. It can also mean there is less personal space and opportunity for each one to have some privacy. In such circumstances, tempers can become short and lead to disputes.
4. They haven’t been taught to value each other. It’s a myth to assume that siblings intuitively think positively about each other. You need to make a point of reminding each of your children about his own good points as well as his brother’s.
5. They are not involved in decisions. There is no reason why a child cannot be asked for an opinion about, say, which movie you should all see next weekend or what toys they should take to the park to play with. Notice that they are more irritable with each other when they feel excluded from even minor decisions about their own lives.
6. One gets more than the other. This is not as obvious as it sounds. There may be justifiable reasons why, for instance, your older boy always gets the new clothes. But your younger one will eventually want his turn at getting new clothes too. When he is denied this opportunity, he takes his frustration out on his sibling.
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