Sibling Rivalry (Definitions, Aspects, Characteristics, Causes, and How to Overcome)

Sibling rivalry is a competition in the form of hostility, jealousy, anger, and hatred among siblings to get parents’ attention and affection. Parents who have two or more children usually experience this since their children are 3 years old.

In the first three years of the children’s life, they usually have sibling rivalry. This condition must be interfered with because if not, it may be worse.

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry usually appears if the age difference of the siblings is too close. As you know, when a child has a younger sister or brother, he or she will think that the younger one steals their parents’ attention. Selfish, belligerency, having sleeping disorders, having nail biting habits, and hyperactive are some of the signs of sibling rivalry.

Read also: 6 Positive Impacts of Sibling Rivalry

According to some book sources, here are some definitions of sibling rivalry.

  • According to Cholid (2004), sibling rivalry is a feeling of hostility, jealousy, and anger between siblings, brothers or sisters, not as friends but as rivals.
  • According to Chaplin (2001), sibling rivalry is a competition between younger brothers and older brothers, younger sisters and older sisters and older brothers or vice versa.
  • According to Lusa (2010), sibling rivalry is jealousy, competition, and fights between brothers and sisters, this happens to all parents who have two or more children.
  • According to Sadarjoen (2005), sibling rivalry is fighting over the affection and attention of parents where it is felt since they are 3 years old.
  • According to Shaffer (2007), sibling rivalry is a competition, jealousy, and hatred between siblings, which often appears when there is a younger sibling.

Some Famous Examples of Sibling Rivalry

1. Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel sibling rivalry stories

Cain and Abel are two sons of the Prophet Adam and Eve. Even though they come from the same father and mother, they are different, especially in terms of piety to their Lord.

The story of the two is recorded in the Qur’an (Habil and Qabil) also bible and is known as the first murder case that occurred on earth.

2. Rachel and Leah

sibling rivalry stories

3. Linus and Lucy Van Pelt from the “Charlie Brown” Series

Linus and Lucy Van Pelt sibling rivalry stories

4. Malcolm and Reese Wilkerson from “Malcolm in the Middle”

Malcolm and Reese Wilkerson sibling rivalry stories

5. Fredo and Michael Corleone from “The Godfather” movies

Fredo and Michael Corleone sibling rivalry stories

6. Bart and Lisa Simpson

Bart and Lisa Simpson sibling rivalry stories

Sibling Rivalry Aspects

There are several aspects of sibling rivalry as follows.

1. Conflict

Conflict is defined as a social event which involves opposition and differences of opinion. Fighting, protesting, and rejecting are categorized into this behavior. Conflict happens when there are two or more individuals related in opposite behavior.

2. Jealous

Children can feel jealous if they feel unsatisfied with the way their parents treat them where the children are treated differently. They feel jealous because they rely on their parents’ attention, affection, and the fulfillment of their needs. As a result, they do not like when their parents’ affection is shared.

3. Dejection

When a child feels dejected or angry at his or her parents, she or he may express it to their younger sister or brother. She or he does it because she or he cannot do it to their parents. Feeling dejected can also be expressed to their siblings if they do not get the same things as their siblings get from their parents.

The Characteristics of Sibling Rivalry

There are several characteristics of sibling rivalry, as follows.

  1. Behaving aggressively or resentment (Dejection, anger, or hatred). When a child gets different treatment from parents, she or he will express it to his or her sibling. When she or he is jealous, she or he will be aggressive where she or he can hit, claw, throw things, wound, try to beat his or her sibling, attack his or her parents, etc.
  2. Competition or the spirit to compete. This competition causes one of the siblings to not want to lose from their siblings. They compete and consider their superiority as the way to get parents’ attention.
  3. Feeling jealous by looking for parents’ attention. This behavior is usually shown by looking for excessive attention from their parents. For example, when their parents praise their sibling, they will hurt themselves so that their parents’ attention switches to them. Or, they become obedient with the aim to get their parents’ attention.

The Causes of Sibling Rivalry

Generally, there are two causes of sibling rivalry as you are able to read below.

  1. Internal factor. This is a factor that grows and develops in the child itself such as temperamental behavior, behaving to get parents’ attention, difference of age or gender, and his or her ambition to beat his or her sibling.
  2. External factor. This factor is because parents are wrong in educating their children. For example, parents like to compare their children and they have their most favorite child among their children.

The factors that can influence sibling rivalry behavior are explained below.

  1. Each child competes to determine their personality so that they want to show it to their sibling.
  2. The children feel that they lack attention, discipline and want to listen to their parents.
  3. The children feel that their relationship with their parents is threatened because of the new family member, in this case their younger sister or brother.
  4. The child development stage either physically or emotionally can influence the process of maturity and concern for one another.
  5. The children are frustrated because of feeling hungry, bored, or tired so they start the fight.
  6. The children do not know how to get the attention or to start games with their siblings.
  7. Family dynamics in playing a role.
  8. Parents’ thoughts about children’s aggression and fighting in the family is normal.
  9. There is no time for sharing, gathering with family members.
  10. Parents experience stress in living their life.
  11. The children experience stress in living their life.
  12. The way the parents treat the children and overcome the conflict that happens to them.

How to Overcome Sibling Rivalry

You may want to know how to overcome sibling rivalry. Well, there are several ways that parents can do to overcome sibling rivalry behavior as you are able to read below.

Read also: What happens when sibling rivalry is ignored until they are older?

1. You can support your children to express their affection and instill a sense of belonging

You cannot ask your children to love, but you have to teach and maintain them how to love. You also have to instill a sense of belonging. For example, you are able to teach them to help their sibling to tidy up toys, clean their bike, and many more. By doing these things, a sense of belonging will grow between the siblings.

2. Don’t compare your children, but appreciate them

Don’t compare your children to one another. The thing that you also need to realize is that every child has their own strengths, weaknesses, and uniqueness. So, appreciate them and never compare.

3. Instill self-esteem in your children

You have to be able to increase their self-esteem with their own talents and strengths. Children can be jealous if their sibling is more successful or preferred than them. So, your task is to increase their self-esteem for example by digging their potential. So, they will not be discouraged.

4. Know your children’s temperaments

How to handle every child is different because they have different temperaments. There are children who are obedient and easy to manage, but there are also children who tend to rebel. So, it is important for you to know the temperaments of each child.

5. Teach your children to overcome conflicts

Make conflict as a means of reconciliation, forgiving each other, and solving problems. You have to teach your children to overcome conflict without having to fight.

6. Make clear rules to be obeyed

Children need to know and obey the rules in the family. Here are some of the examples.

  • Don’t hit each other when fighting.
  • Don’t ridicule or utter harsh words.
  • When borrowing others’ stuff, they need to ask permission from the owner and return it to the original place after borrowing it.

7. Be fair to every child

As parents, you have to try to be fair to your children. If not, it can trigger them to be jealous. If you have to treat your children differently because one of them is a child with a special need for example, you are able to explain to your children that they are not treated differently. The point about being fair is that being fair is not always giving the same amount, but must be as needed.

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