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Understanding Sibling Rivalry

Understanding Sibling Rivalry

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Some degree of sibling rivalry is bound to occur among all siblings at some point of time but it does not mean that they actually dislike one another.

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Understanding Emotional Needs of Babies. Parents should understand that each baby has a unique requirement for space, love and attention. It is the effort to meet this requirement that causes sibling rivalry.

Divided Attention Leads to Sibling Rivalry.

The most common factor that causes sibling rivalry is the diversion of parental attention. When the first baby is born, she gets all the attention and time that parents have. This makes her feel rather special and has an enormous positive affect on her life.

When the second baby is born, the amount of exclusive time that parents give to the first-born is reduced. It becomes less than what it earlier used to be, as the new baby requires a lot of time, effort and attention. The firstborn may start feeling neglected as the parents are unable to spend time and even when they do, they are totally exhausted from looking after the new baby. The firstborn strongly dislikes this situation and holds the newborn responsible for it.

Terrible Twos May Make Matters Worse.

Older Baby Secretly Irritates Her Younger Sibling. Almost unconsciously, the older baby starts looking for ways to get the parents to "stop loving" the younger one and grab attention.  She may begin to directly irritate and bother the younger baby.  However reprimanding or punishing the older baby does not solve the problem, it only makes her develop ways to bother and irritate the younger one, which the parents won’t be able to detect.

Younger Baby Resorts to Complaining. Initially, the capacity of the younger baby to take action is limited and she cannot defend herself or attack in return. As the baby starts growing, she develops ways to impede the older one’s attacks.  The easiest mechanism is complaining - She hit me! She took my toy! She pulled my hair!  Parents may scold the older baby and the situation may temporarily resolve. As they grow older, younger siblings develop all kinds of tactics to settle their score with the older sibling by exasperating her in return.

Parents’ Role in Building Camaraderie Between Siblings.

Parents need to understand that the cause of sibling rivalry stems when the younger sibling becomes a threat to the older baby’s sense of security. Sibling rivalry can be prevented if the older baby learns to view the younger baby as her ally.

Create Sense of Responsibility in Older Baby. While you are expecting, start talking to the older baby about the newcomer that will soon join the family. Tell the older baby that her role is very important in raising the new baby. Explain to her the various responsibilities that she has being the older sibling.

Keep Appropriate Gap Between Babies. This is necessary so that you can give sufficient time and attention to your babies.

Appreciate the Older Baby. Give credit to your older baby for every achievement of your younger baby. This encourages the older baby to teach the younger sibling nice things and she naturally develops a liking for her younger sibling.

Encourage Mutual Co-operation and Dialogue. Build the spirit of mutual co-operation through demonstration. For example, at dinner, the mother might cook while the father sets the table. Optimize this opportunity by teaching team values. The father can say to the kids, “Look, in this family we’re a team. We believe in working together. I can use your help setting the table. Which colour napkins do you like to put on the table tonight, the pink or the green?”

It Is Not Good To Be Biased. Never demonstrate a preferential behavior for one baby over the other. You can certainly have such liking or preference but be very cautious not to express it in front of your babies.

Discourage Destructive Behavior. Inculcate values of mutual respect and belongingness among siblings. Disapprove any kind of destructive behavior, such as lack of respect towards the other parent, sibling or any other person.

Plan Frequent Family Activities. Avoid games and contests in which one baby "wins" and the other "loses."  Instead, go for activities and pastimes in which they all "win" if they cooperate with one another.

Every Baby has a Unique Temperament. Be prepared to raise and educate your babies keeping in mind that particular baby’’’’s innate temperament. 

One to One. It is very important for you to spend exclusive time with each of your babies.

Positive Approach Towards Sibling Rivalry.

Sibling rivalry allows siblings to test their limits, to assert themselves and to learn how to negotiate their wants and needs. Stay out of sibling conflicts unless the situation becomes violent or deliberately cruel. Sibling rivalry can be very constructive if you make efforts to understand your babies and correct their negativities by spending quality time with them.

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