I grew up in the middle of five brothers, and we were all masters at making each other furious. We had hated nicknames for each other; we knew how to be sneaky with irritating touches or under-the-breath insults.
For a few years we even made the word "honey" into some sort of slur, said in just the right tone -- it was hard for our parents to stop us from saying such a "nice" word. My mom's advice was usually, "Just ignore him and he will stop doing that."
Well, I have to say that the brother just slightly younger than me was a master at never giving up at being irritating. He would poke at me and say things until I would finally give in and retaliate.
As I have raised my three children, the rivalry doesn't seem as direct between the three of them maybe because we have more entertainment. However, they certainly throw each other "under the bus" when resisting chores, "Why doesn't he have to do that? Why am I the only one?" or when trying to define their individuality, "I'm sorry that I am not a perfect child, like ______!!"
I think some rivalry is normal, but my main goals as a parent to prevent sibling rivalry were:
- Have my kids not call each other names that will stay with them in regards to how they look or act (ugly, fat, etc.)
- Encourage them to do things together or foster talking to each other especially during dinner hours
- A little kidding is fine, but over-teasing is stopped.
- Being aware of how an older child might quietly bully a younger sibling.
Contributed by Anita Oldham, Editor, Today’s Family and Today’s Woman magazines.