Sibling Rivalry: Yes It Exists -- And Yes It Is Normal

By Dr. Kristin Seaborg

Credit: MGN Online

Sibling Rivalry: Yes It Exists -- And Yes It Is Normal

February 4, 2014 Updated Feb 4, 2014 at 2:17 PM EDT

No matter where you live in the country, chances are that you’ve had some pretty terrible weather recently that has relinquished your whole family to the house. 

Have you ever noticed that when all family members are stuck together in one place for a while, the degree of bickering and irritability rises to new levels? 

In fact, I’ve been having some trouble writing this article because I could hardly think clearly over the constant fighting between my two boys, ages 9 and 7, who have been arguing like an old married couple in the other room. Whether the discussion is over a seat in the car, a Lego creation, the laundry, or dessert, my sons find a way to fight about it. So, part in desperation and part for my own edification, I reviewed the latest advice and recommendations to alleviate sibling rivalry.

The most common fact that I found when I went back to review the literature on sibling rivalry was that, as upsetting and as frustrating as it can be, it is 100% normal.  As parents, we are naturally very important in our child’s lives and they’d rather not share us with anyone (at least until the teenage years!)  So siblings naturally compete for our attention and love, which immediately places them at odds with one another.  Depending on their personalities and how we respond to their actions, this rivalry can be more pronounced or less noticeable in different families. 

To help decrease the amount of rivalry in your house, try your hardest to avoid comparing siblings to each other and celebrate their differences instead.  When there is a squabble, encourage the children to solve the problem on their own without your intervention.  If you have to get involved in settling a fight, remain impartial and try not to favor one child over the other.  Be fair and remain fair so your kids won’t have to compete for your praise or good will.  Also, try to hold a weekly family meeting when all family members can express their feelings and thoughts in a safe environment.

Finally, remember to catch each child when they are being good and praise them for the good choices they’re making and for what a wonderful kid they are.  It won’t be long before they’re competing for someone else’s attention instead of ours!

Kristin Seaborg is a Wisconsin pediatrician who writes about her experiences and perspective as a pediatrician and a parent of three children on her  blog, Common Sense Motherhood. To find out more about Dr. Seaborg, you can visit her at her website, www.kristinseaborg.com.




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