Rivalry between children: what to do to parents
The rivalry between brothers and sisters can manifest itself in many different ways: from the ingenuous demands of parental love to aggressive skirmishes and fights. This is one of the most common family problems that worries many parents. In one family, personalities with completely different characters grow: they are forced to somehow coexist and settle endless differences.
On the one hand, this is a great opportunity to learn communication and conflict resolution skills. On the other hand, it is very frustrating for the parents and the children themselves. Sometimes rivalry becomes open hostility: siblings harass each other for years. Parents should know how to deal with this in order to preserve their own nerves and maintain a calm and friendly atmosphere in the house.
Why is there a rivalry between children
Getting along with another person is not so easy. Quite often scandals break out because of things: everyone wants to take control of a limited resource. If children share one room, there will always be a reason for a quarrel, and minor disagreements are simply inevitable. Almost all parents who have two or more children, note one or another level of competition, but its roots can be different.
Most experts believe that the main role is played by the struggle for parental love and approval. There are other factors that intensify the internecine conflict:
- imaginary or true parental favoritism;
- different temperaments and characters;
- the need to protect their property: for example, a child worries that his younger brother will drag away his favorite blanket;
- jealousy: the oldest child is jealous of the newborn, because he gets the lion’s share of attention;
- family style of conflict resolution: when parents aggressively argue and break into a cry;
- inability to cope with a conflict situation: it is simply difficult for young children to control their emotions;
- adults encourage aggression: if parents ignore the fight or laugh when one child teases another;
- brother or sister is perceived as a rival;
- twins or the weather grow in the family: competition increases many times when parents and other adults begin to compare them.
According to some studies, rivalry between young children occurs much more often than between teenagers. So, children from three to seven years old have an extremely high level of conflict: on average they argue 3.5 times per hour.
How rivalry affects children and parents
Rivalry between children often leads parents to despair, because they only do that to separate opponents. Endless educational conversations require considerable effort and nervous tension. In addition, constant squabbles make it difficult to give children full attention, both at once and individually.
Some parents are trying to treat children’s rivalry philosophically and maintain patience. Others worry that it will negatively affect school behavior, relationships with friends, or growing up. Rivalry affects children in different ways. In some cases, quarrels with a brother or sister cause severe stress and confusion, especially when the child feels that he is less loved or disregarded with his needs.
Sometimes children’s rivalry turns into violence. According to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2013, attacks on brothers and sisters are frustratingly frequent. The percentage of such cases is especially high among children with an age difference of less than two years. So, 40.9% of them reported that they had been beaten more than once in the last year, and 7.7% said that they threw themselves at them with weapons and severely injured them.
It is important for parents to understand that their decisions must be based primarily on the needs of the children, and not on the notorious justice
Chronic assault, where one child usually appears as a victim and the second as a tormentor, can lead to serious neurotic disorders. It becomes the cause of childhood post-traumatic disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, difficulties with studying and communicating with friends, and problematic relationships in adulthood.
Competition, on the other hand, offers certain advantages. Brothers and sisters learn social skills from each other. Early experience in conflict resolution prepares a child for numerous adult disagreements, including developing the ability to find a common language with other people: for example, roommates or spouses.
According to a 2013 study, fifth graders, who were the only children in the family, showed weaker interpersonal skills — and that was after five years of attending school. This trend suggests that the ability to manage conflicts, acquired in skirmishes with brothers and sisters, continues to bring considerable benefits, even after the child enters school and spends most of the day with other children.
How to prevent rivalry between children
There is nothing unusual in the phenomenon itself, but not all childish rivalries are considered normal or healthy. “Although many parents tend to perceive contention between brothers and sisters as something natural, childish rivalry can adversely affect mental health, and for life. He must be treated as a potential threat, the same as bullying and bullying, ”explains family physician Katie Hardy Williams.
“It’s important for parents to understand that their decisions must be based primarily on the needs of the children, and not on the notorious justice,” Williams continues. – We are used to thinking that justice is when everyone gets equally. But in reality, justice is when everyone gets what he needs. Parents who are able to teach children this principle will render them invaluable service. ”
Her opinion was echoed by a study of methods of interfering in children’s rivalry, which indicated the need to promote friendships between brothers and sisters. During his 12 extracurricular activities, where children from one family were taught positive friendly communication. They were invited to perceive each other as members of the same team, after which the authors noted that their mutual affection was significantly strengthened.
Take time to chat with each child. Then it will be easier to discern unique qualities in them and develop talents
There are other effective strategies: if replenishment is expected in the family, prepare the child for the birth of a baby, talk to him about it so that he feels an important part of the process. Do not allow sudden changes to occur in the life of an older child with the advent of a newborn. Be consistent, demand compliance with the rules without age discounts.
Brothers and sisters often offend each other if they turn a blind eye to such behavior. It is very likely that the youngest child, who is allowed to take anything without the permission of the older one, will do the same when he grows up. Intervene in conflicts where there is a clear desire for one-sided benefits or physical force is used.
Do not select pets and do not compare children. Do not put one child as an example to another. Refrain from negative comparisons of appearance or gender. Do not force the twins to wear the same clothes and do not expect them to behave the same. Take time to chat with each child. Then it will be easier to discern unique qualities in them and develop talents.
If you are accused of having a pet
A child who declares to parents that they love another more is experiencing real grief. Parents should not dismiss his worries, even if they do not have a pet. It is important to understand how he feels and to help him deal with these emotions.
Ask such questions:
- Why do you think I have a pet?
- What should I do to make you feel very loved?
- Do you miss my attention?
- Let’s think about how to improve your relationship with your brother (sister)?
- Maybe I’ll try to reconcile you?
Think about it: maybe you are not in vain accused of bias? It often happens that one child is closer in spirit. For example, it is difficult for a father in love with sports and active games to find a common language with his son, who prefers to read books calmly. Always ask his opinions when planning joint events, and try to understand what interests him.
Pay attention to the unique character traits and talents of each of the children. Praise them not only for the successes that are important to your vanity, but also for everything that is important to them personally. A novice artist is more concerned about whether you like his drawings than the reward for good marks. Think about the feelings of the child, not how fair his accusations are.
Love is not measured in portions, therefore, “prove” that you treat all children the same way, it will not work. If you manage to make the child feel that they really love him, it is likely that the need to fight with brothers and sisters for your location will disappear by itself.
When to contact a family therapist
Family therapy helps to cope with many forms of childhood rivalry. Trying is never too early and never too late. The help of a specialist is useful even with minor manifestations of hostility.
Therapy is highly recommended in such cases:
- Rivalry between children has become a source of chronic stress for parents or for themselves.
- Parents tried countless ways to build relationships between the children, but nothing helped.
- Bullying and physical abuse do not stop.
- One or more children have special needs, which enhances competition.
- The family has undergone major changes or loss, for example, a divorce or the death of someone close.
- Parents cannot overcome difficulties in communicating with one or more children, for which they are accused of being biased.
The task of a competent therapist is to help each member of the family express their feelings. With his support, family members will be able to agree on what to do with children’s rivalry and achieve mutual agreement.