Parenting Tips for Managing Sibling Rivalry
Can parents influence how their children react to each other?
Sibling rivalry frustrates most parents, but the solution often points to their parenting skills. The following are stories of different siblings that show how children reflect their parents.
Although they are both children of Michelle, Karla and Jeannine, separated by two years, can’t see eye to eye. As children, they fought with each other fiercely. Michelle, a single mother, would support Jeannine, the younger sister, over Karla. Michelle blamed the older sibling for the constant fights and quibbling and thought Karla needed counseling, but it didn’t work. Today, Karla and Jeannine are estranged sisters.
Creating Lifelong Sibling Friendships
Lorene and Emilia are sisters who are about two years apart. Like Karla and Jeannine, they experienced intense sibling rivalry and their parents were still married growing up. Their father was an investment banker and their mother, who had a Masters in Science Education, stayed at home to raise them.
In the heat of a colossal fight between Lorene and Emilia, their mother said to them, “You’re fighting each other now. But when you grow up, you’ll be the best of friends. The earlier you start learning how to do that, the better it’ll be for you.”
Today, Lorene is a research scientist in South America and Emilia works for a nonprofit that aims at ending homelessness on the West Coast. “We are best friends,” Emilia, 29, says about her relationship with her 31-year-old sister.
Would things have been different for Karla and Jeannine if Michelle had insisted that they learn to love each other?
As a five-year-old boy, I teased my brother who had a funny name. Each time we had a misunderstanding, I would poke fun at him. He was six years older than I was and I enjoyed making him angry. He would chase me, then we would fight. One day, my mother whispered something into my brother’s ear.
The next time I provoked him, he didn’t respond. I pestered him several times, but he ignored me and I stopped eventually. I later learned what my mother told him.
“Ignore him. He will be tired and cease.”
The incident faded into memory and left my brother and I close siblings. He was my support when I was in middle school. He encouraged me when I was in high school, motivating me with gifts, helping me to complete that phase of my education. We’ve grown up to love each other as brothers should. I wonder what would have happened if my mother didn’t find a way to diffuse the tension?
It’s up to parents to foster healthy relationships among their children. Sibling rivalries are teaching moments. The best parents, like my mother and those of Lorene and Emilia, leverage these opportunities to teach their children about impulse control, forgiveness, and compassion for their siblings and for themselves.
How do you manage sibling rivalry? Let us know down in the comments.