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Family – Part 20

Apr 29, 2022

Sibling Rivalry
When it comes to Sibling Rivalry, there are two angles; amongst kids and amongst adults, in sha Allah through the help of Allah we will try and cover them both.

Kids
Every parent of more than one child dreams big when it comes to raising siblings: We picture our little ones sharing clothes and toys, wearing matching outfits and defending one another against bullies on the playground. Basically, we expect them to become literal BFFs.
The reality is this, though: When you’re raising two or more kids, you’re dealing with very different personalities and temperaments. There’ll be competition. There’ll be jealousy and resentment. There’ll be fights, and some will be intense.
Sibling rivalry describes the ongoing conflict between kids raised in the same family. It might take the form of:
• verbal or physical fighting
• name-calling
• tattling and bickering
• being in constant competition for parental attention
• voicing feelings of envy
It’s stressful for mom or dad, but it’s totally normal — we challenge you to find a parent in the world who hasn’t dealt with it!
What causes sibling rivalry?
Let’s be honest: Sometimes you feel like picking a fight with your spouse or partner, right? Of course you do! You live with them 24/7. Tight-knit family bonds are a good thing, but they can also breed a perfectly normal amount of irritation with one another.
The same thing happens between siblings, and because you’re dealing with developmentally immature little people, those irritations can be compounded by a few other factors:
Major life changes. Moving into a new home? Expecting a new baby? Getting a divorce? These events are stressful for parents and kids alike, and many kids take their frustrations and anxieties out on the nearest target (i.e., their little sister).
Ages and stages. Ever watched a toddler do a full rugby tackle on their poor, unsuspecting baby sibling? There are some developmental stages when sibling rivalry is worse, like when both kids are under 4 or there are especially large or small age gaps between siblings.

Jealousy. Your 3-year-old painted a beautiful picture and you praised them for it… and now their older sibling is threatening to rip it up. Why? They’re feeling jealous of the praise.

Individuality. Kids have a natural inclination to set themselves apart, including from their siblings. This can spark competitions to see who can build the taller tower, race the fastest car, or eat the most waffles. It may seem trivial to you, but it feels hugely important to them.

Lack of conflict resolution skills. If your kids routinely see you and your partner fighting in loud or aggressive ways, they may role model that behaviour. They literally might not know any other way to handle their conflicts.

Before you start blaming yourself for all the life choices you’ve made that have caused your kids to hate each other on the daily, take a deep breath. Siblings are going to fight, with or without your interference.

Your choices can contribute to or even worsen an existing sibling rivalry, but chances are you haven’t directly caused your kids to compete with one another. Plus, no matter what you do, you can’t stop it completely.

That said, there are parental behaviours that can exacerbate sibling rivalry. If you do any of the following (even unknowingly), you could be setting yourself — and your kids — up for a lot of angst:
• constantly praise one child and criticize another
• pit your kids against one another in competition
• assign specific family roles (“Zainab is the math whiz, and Moosa is the artist.”)
• clearly pay more attention to one child’s needs and interests

How to handle the fights
When a fight breaks out between your kids, you should try to stay out of it as much as possible. Your kids won’t learn how to negotiate their own conflicts if you’re always interfering and playing peacemaker. At the same time, your kids will only learn how to appropriately handle conflict if they see good conflict resolution in action (i.e., they learn it from you), and some kids are too little to navigate it anyway.

Important for you to understand, no matter the scenario, is that you, as the parent, need to act as a side-line advisor, not on-the-field referee. When encouraging conflict resolution between your kids, it’s important to:

• avoid taking sides — unless you witnessed one child hurting another without provocation, everyone involved in the fight takes some share of the blame

• encourage a solution that’s beneficial to everyone, even if it involves some compromise

• set limits, like no physical contact (“You can say you’re mad, but you can’t hit your sister.”)

• teach empathy, encouraging your kids to put themselves in their siblings’ shoes (“Remember when Zaid wouldn’t share his colouring book with you yesterday? How did that make you feel?”)

• avoid playing favourites, as kids will notice if you always baby your youngest or believe your oldest child’s version of the story

Facilitating harmony
Remember, you probably didn’t cause sibling rivalry between your kids — but you may be inadvertently making it worse. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to promote more camaraderie in your house.

You can’t stop it completely, but implementing these parenting strategies may reduce how often your kids fight.

Fairness. Children can be very sensitive – they won`t share their toy car and you want them to share their parents love? You have to be very careful of how you treat each one of them and the things you do. Some kids are very small or perhaps sickly and require more of your time, you have to be careful how you navigate through this!

Prioritize one-on-one time. On a daily basis, try to devote a few minutes to check in with each of your kids individually. Then, on a weekly or monthly basis, try to spend some “alone time” doing a favourite activity together.

Promote a team culture in your family. When parents and siblings act like a team working toward common goals, members tend to get along better and not compete as much.

Give everyone some space. If your kids share a bedroom, designate areas of the house where they can each retreat to get a break from one another.

Introduce family meetings. This is a great opportunity for all family members to air grievances, offer solutions, and work through conflicts away from the heat of the moment.

The takeaway
Your kids are going to fight. It’s probably not your fault, but if the fighting is excessive or truly disrupting household harmony, it’s time to take a look at how conflicts are modelled and resolved in your family.

Adults
Sibling rivalry isn’t always outgrown in childhood, however; in some cases, it only intensifies as time passes. While people often think of sibling rivalry as a childhood phenomenon, adult sibling rivalry is a common phenomenon in which adult siblings struggle to get along, argue, or are even estranged from one another.

Roots of Adult Sibling Rivalry
Expectations – Sometimes parents place expectations on their children to compensate for their own inadequacies. As children try to fulfil these expectations whether spoken or unspoken they often fear they will fail. These expectations and fears often have a negative effect on sibling relationships.

Labels – Parental expectations tend to include comparisons between siblings, and they often result in labels that can stick for a lifetime. Common labels include brainy, wizz kid, wonder child, lazy, family rebel, delinquent, crazy, clown, happy go lucky one, and bully. These labels often mold us — we become our labels. As adults, labels can contribute to continuing rivalries with siblings.

Favouritism
One of the most precious resources that siblings fight about is their parents’ love and approval. If parents show favouritism towards a child, they can harm and even destroy sibling relationships. For example, in one family of sons, the youngest child was spoiled and pampered by his parents, and one of the older sons always felt left out of the picture. As the two boys became adults and started having children of their own, the pampering of the youngest child continued with the spoiling of that son’s children. One Eid the older son received a package of gifts from his parents and realized the gifts were not age-appropriate for his children. So he called his mother and asked her if she had mixed up the packages. She had, she realized. She apologized to both brothers and had each forward the package to the correct person. When the older son received the package meant for him and his children, it was smaller and the items were fewer and less expensive. He became jealous and called his mother to express his disapproval. She responded, “You should be lucky you received anything.” This situation, caused by the parents, has perpetuated bitter sibling rivalry between these two brothers.

The Phases of Sibling Relationships
Over time, families change and expand due to a number of reasons such as marriage, siblings having children, the illness and death of elderly parents, the parents’ or a sibling’s divorce, geographical moves, and career successes or failures. Each of these situations can cause new sibling rivalries.

Marriage – When a sibling gets married, the other siblings often feel like the sibling bond has been dissolved. They may feel they have lost something that will never be regained. An 18-year-old young man, for example, had a brother who got married. The younger brother felt sad and rejected as if he had lost his older brother forever. His brother was now a married man preoccupied with responsibilities. As the older brother bought a house and started having children, the younger brother felt even more unimportant and like they were now worlds apart.

As siblings marry, keep in mind the following:
The wedding can be very stressful and can cause many hurt feelings between siblings. Some siblings may feel like they are being left behind. If you’re the sibling getting married, be sensitive to what your brothers and sisters are experiencing. Your relationship with them is going to be different, and this can be a difficult change to deal with.

Weddings can be difficult for an older, unmarried sibling who would like to be married. He or she might feel resentful and emotional. The sibling getting married should be sensitive to this situation and tolerant of volatile emotions.

Becoming more established – As siblings get older and more established in their own lives, it’s easy to drift apart. Even if you do everything you can to stay close, a certain amount of distancing is inevitable. The demands of a spouse, children,
education, career, a home, money problems, troubled teenagers and many other realities of life can put sibling relationships on the backburner. All these factors also can increase competition between siblings as they compare how their adult lives are going. Below are suggestions to keep the competition in check.

• Don’t compare the looks and qualities of your spouse to the looks and qualities of your sibling’s spouse.
• Avoid comparing yours or your spouse’s occupation to that of your siblings or your sibling’s spouse.
• Don’t respond to siblings’ attempts to hook you into competing.
• Develop your own standard of success, then focus on that instead of your sibling’s standard. When you stop comparing yourself to your siblings’ measuring stick, you will eventually feel proud of your own accomplishments.
• Don’t compete over the number of children each of you has whether who has more or who has less.

Aging parents
As your parent’s age, you may find new conflict arising between you and your brothers and sisters – or old conflict in new forms, especially if you’re sharing caregiving responsibilities. Here are some preventive measures to keep sibling rivalries from flaring up under the stress of this situation.

• Make a deliberate effort to break free of old roles.
• Allow shared caregiving to bring you closer instead of creating more stress. Give yourself and each other a break.
• Be ready to say “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” when needed.
• When emotions become heated, take a break and cool down. Think before you act or speak.

Communication with Your Siblings
In any relationship a lack of communication skills causes problems. General communication principles that can improve sibling`s relationships include:

• Avoid sarcasm. It makes it hard for your siblings to understand what you mean, and it often causes injury.
• Stick to the facts.
• Avoid interpreting behavior. You can never be sure why a sibling has done what she has done, so don’t try to tell her what her behavior means.
• Don’t ask questions if you’re not willing to hear the answer.
• Don’t wait too long to voice complaints. The longer you wait the more your resentment builds.
• When you don’t know what to say, be honest. If you feel awkward talking about something, let your sibling know.
• Be a good listener. Pay attention to verbal and nonverbal behavior.
• Ask questions that will help you gain understanding.

Making Friends with Siblings
No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to improve a relationship with a sibling you’ve felt a rivalry with.

• Take responsibility for your part of the sibling rivalry. Do your part in trying to understand your siblings and their feelings toward you.

• Don’t waste your time envying other people’s sibling relationships. Even relationships that appear good on the outside most likely have conflict and baggage.

• Your siblings are not children anymore. See them as adults and treat them accordingly.

• Take the first step. Don’t let pride or stubbornness stop you from improving your relationship. If you wait around for the other sibling to approach you, it may never happen.

• Realize your siblings have experienced different things in life that make them different from you. Don’t expect them to be like you or who you want them to be.

• Clear up misunderstandings as quickly as possible. Holding on to resentment and misunderstandings only makes things worse.

• Set boundaries for your relationship and respect those boundaries.

• When you have a misunderstanding, don’t assume your brother or sister is wrong. Placing blame is always destructive to relationships.

• Show up at family functions. If you don’t show up, siblings might think you’re trying to avoid them or that you feel hostile toward them. Even if you don’t feel like going, make the effort to go.

• Don’t wait for your siblings to make all of the contacts. Do your part to keep in touch.

• Be there for your siblings during hard times. These times can help you draw closer together.

• Make time to be with your siblings. A good relationship requires spending time together.

As you work to overcome rivalries and become friends with your siblings, it’s important to stay close, be patient, and learn to communicate more effectively. If you can do these things and make needed changes in your own life, you will have taken valuable steps in overcoming your sibling rivalries.

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