5.3 Describe techniques that can minimize sibling rivalry
Sibling rivalry may cause uneasiness and stress to a family. Children who are targets of rivalry may experience harassment, get bullied or ridiculed leading to lowered self-esteem. However, in social interaction between parents and their children there are some techniques that could be employed to minimize the degree of sibling rivalry. Such include:
- Preparing the older children for the arrival of a newborn. In this preparation the parent should use a language children can understand. This way the newborn will not be viewed as an intruder but as a bona fide member of the family.
- Giving quality time to each child. Parents should not neglect the older children after the arrival of the new child. If neglected, children often turn their frustration to the new born.
- Allowing each child an opportunity to talk about her or his negative feelings towards the baby. Often children are scolded if they express such feelings. Essentially, parents should listen to such grievances in order to give their children proper guidance in an attempt to change their attitude towards the baby.
- Avoiding comparing children. Instead each child should be treated as an individual. If a child is elevated as being better than others in anything, he or she becomes the target of rivalry.
- Listening to each child especially when solving their disputes. When solving problems, it doesn’t matter “who started it,” because it takes two to make a quarrel. Parents should hold the two sides equally responsible when ground rules get broken. Siding with one child (usually the younger one) escalates the conflict. Children can be manipulative and any form of unfairness prompts rivalry.
- Avoiding over- identifying with one child. Although a child could be talented and doing better than others, Parents should try to identify each child’s strengths and encourage them.
- Assuring each child that they are valued for who they are rather than for what they are.
- Letting the children learn that they are of different age hence their rules and regulations vary. A younger child may feel cheated and become envious of an older sibling who seems to enjoy more privileges.
- Spacing children. The parents should plan to allow sufficient time
between consecutive births. Each child needs enough time to receive attention such as breast feeding. A child who is removed from the mother’s breast too soon due to the arrival of a baby may provoke much bitterness against such a sibling.
- Avoiding labeling children.
- Condemning bad behaviour irrespective of the culprits. Parents should never approve harmful behaviour such as lack of respect towards the other parent, siblings or any other person.
- Allowing children to be children. Parents should not subject the older siblings to activities such as caring for the younger ones exclusively at the expense of other necessary childhood experiences.
- Carrying out frequent family activities and pastimes in which they all “win” if
they cooperate with one another. Games and contests in which one of the children “wins” and the others “lose,” should be avoided.
- Ignoring trivial issues among siblings. It is necessary to note that sibling rivalry has some positive contribution. Since a child learns how to interact with the outside community in the family, it is necessary for children to be exposed to some degree of harshness to enable them to survive in the broader world. Some amount of rivalry at home helps children learn to be assertive and to defend themselves.
- i) Review a case of primary school siblings who have are rivals. Try to establish the reasons behind their rivalry.
- ii) Write the report (without using their real names) and give recommendations on any intervention measures that could be employed.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
Bank, P. & Kahn, M. (1997). The sibling bond. New York: Harpercollins
Pipher, Mary. (1996). The shelter of each other: Rebuilding our families. New York: Ballantine.