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This is one of a series of lesson-6 articles
on howto parent (nurture) effectively. The article focuses on
options when sibling rivalry "seriously" affects...
young kids' wellbeing and healthy
adult kids' lives, and...
biofamily or stepfamily harmony.
This series assumes you're familiar with...
intro to this nonprofit Web
site and the premises underlying
To set the stage, review this brief YouTube video on tools for resolving
relationship problems: The video says this Web site is composed of eight
self-improvement lessons. I've reduced that to seven.
Competition is natural in all
animal species, rooted in the instinct to survive. People compete to
gain (a) resources (like money, water, food, and land); (b) power
(security), and (c) self-satisfaction, fame, and pride ("I'm the best!").
Young and grown siblings compete
for physical and invisible "things" like love, approval,
status, control. and assets. Their vying can
range from good-natured to bitter, occasional to constant, and
subtle to obvious. Good-natured (respectful) rivalry can bring out the best in
people. Selfish competition can tear relationships, families, organizations,
and nations apart.
Most (all?) young
children are egocentric - they focus naturally on filling their own needs
first, unless they're punished for that. Think of what mattered
most to you at four years old. How about at age 12? 17?
Young kids also naturally test
their adults to learn whether they're valued, safe, and how they're
ranked (worst > best). This testing is largely unconscious,
so using logic or criticism to get a child to stop testing will usually
create mutual frustration and distrust.
One type of rivalry is specially vexing for parents: a child competing with
them for family power and control. That can be labeled as
defiance, disrespect, sassiness, backtalk, rebelliousness, and so on.
The real issues in such cases are inherited psychological
wounds, ineffective communication, and disrespect, not rivalry.
Factors that shape how intensely a child needs to test are insecurity
and shame (low self esteem).Kids who are confident and
comfortable with themselves and feel loved, valued, and safe, have less of a
need to test than kids who don't.
An implication is that kids who compete excessively may be a symptom
of parents who haven't helped them feel confident, safe, and loved.
Implication: the kids are not the problem, parental wounds
and ignorance are.
life-long "maturing" is learning to...
be the best you can be, vs. being
better than other people
empathy and respect for other
people, regardless of differences with them;
respect the non-emergency needs of other people as being
just a valid and important as yours,
patiently develop and use your talents and skills
admit and accept your personal limitations
without guilt or shame,
discover and pursue your life
enjoy your successes without feeling
"superior" to others.
you agree with this summary? If not, what do you believe?
For perspective, think back to each adult that raised
and mentored you. What did they teach and model about the traits above? Adult
guidance on excessive rivalry is an opportunity to help kids develop these
essential traits. If parents (like you?) weren't encouraged to develop these
traits themselves, it will be hard to help kids evolve them.
What Attitudes are you
got, you've become an adult with some core right/wrong, good/bad
attitudes about submitting, competing, winning, losing,
selfishness, respect, and cooperation. These attitudes shape if, how,
and when you compete, and for what. They also shape how you guide
your battling youngsters.
Typical young kids learn more from watching and listening to their adult
role models than from lectures. Several key parental attitudes can
promote or minimize sibling rivalry:
"Winning" (competing with
others) is better than negotiating and compromising;
self-centeredness is better
than mutual respect and family welfare;
covert or overt favoritism is
OK, within the family or in general, When a parent prefers one child,
other kids are more apt to be resentful, aggressive, and competitive.
gender superiority - e.g.
fe/males are best because..."
When caregivers and mentors are
guided by their true Selves, they're
least likely to model and teach divisive attitudes. For more
perspective on your family-adults' attitudes, see
this after you finish
A related rivalry factor is kids'
Kids with "male brains" and hormones are more apt to act aggressively and
instinctually seek "to fight and win." Female brains usually value
cooperation, relationships, and community. You probably know exceptions -
fiercely competitive females, and males who promote peace, mediation and
how you feel about these proposals: "A(gree), D(isagree), and (?) it depends
Sibling rivalry is
"excessive" or "significant" when any family
member says it is (A D ?);
Excessive rivalry can stress the
rivals and/or people who care about them
(A D ?)
sibling rivalry is usually a symptom of deeper individual and/or family problems,
so focusing on reducing the rivalry alone often
will not "work" long term. (A D ?)
It can be hard to separate
"excessive rivalry" from other major tensions
and disrespect. These relationship
conditions share some basic underlying primary problems, (below) so working
to heal one of them may improve them all. (A D ?)
All of your
family adults share responsibility for acknowledging
"excessive" sibling rivalry and reducing it to
"tolerable." (A D ?)
Blaming and punishing kids
for excessive rivalry shames them and ignores the
underlying needs that are causing their behavior. This means those needs will keep surfacing
in other ways until they're filled well enough or the child gives up (A
D ?); And...
reduce excessive sibling rivalry - i.e. the primary problems
promoting it - over time! (A D ?)
you don't agree with these ideas, what do you and your other family
adults believe? Your beliefs and attitudes will shape how you respond to
your kids' battling and whether the fights escalate or not.
someone in your family has "a problem" with excessive sibling rivalry, what
can you do?
Identify (a) who has the problem, and (b)
what - specifically - they
If one or more family adults have a problem
related to excessive sibling rivalry,..
avoid blaming and shaming the kids for the
problem ("You make us fight!"),
help each other learn how to analyze typical relationship problems, and...
If two or more adult siblings are excessively combative, they're
Grown Wounded Children
(GWCs) raised in a low-nurturance (dysfunctional) family. Where true, they probably they
have a cluster of personal and relationship problems like
the links above.
If one or more kids have a "rivalry" problem, select from these
whether the kids' primary caregivers are psychologically wounded.
If they are, adopt a long-term view and use
Ignoring this option prevents all other options from working.
compare primary caregivers' attitudes,
goals, and behaviors with those above,
and adjust any as appropriate. The caregivers may be unintentionally promoting
Identify what each child needs from the
other. If they're young, they may not be able to articulate their
primary needs, like respect, security, acceptance, affirmation, and equal family status.
Patiently model and teach (a) mutual-respect
attitudes, and (b) empathic-listening, assertion, and win-win
skills to the kids. Help them learn
that those skills get
their needs met more often than fighting.
if you're in a
invite all your adults - including co-parenting ex mates and their
relatives - to,,,
assess how well
each "rival child's" needs are being filled.
The rivalry is probably
a symptom of several unfilled deeper needs.
If a sibling is being scapegoated
or treated as a "black sheep" by one or more family members, view and
article when you finish here:
Notice the theme and scope of these parenting options. They include
changing some key
adult and family dynamics, not just trying to get the kids to "stop
fighting" or "treat each other better."
these articles on managing other common surface relationship problems
Excessive competition between
minor or adult siblings is often a sign that their family adults are
psychologically wounded and unaware of communication, relationship, family,
and parenting basics. This Lesson-6 article offers (a) perspective on
excessive rivalry between siblings, (b) common causes of such rivalry, and
(c) specific adult options for identifying and reducing the family dynamics
that promote rivalry and other "behavior problems."
Rivalry between typical foster and step children are more complex and
divisive in than between typical birth siblings. Study online lesson 7
(evolve a high-nurturance stepfamily) for perspective and additional
Reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If so -
what do you need to do next? If not - what
do you need? Who's answering these questions - your
wise Self or