Nearly every parent in America with two or more children has experienced sibling rivalry. It’s stressful, frustrating, and downright annoying. Sometimes the rivalry turns into aggression. What most parents want to know: is sibling rivalry normal?
Sibling rivalry is common, albeit uncomfortable. Your kids may be vying for your attention, expressing their stress and frustration, or asserting who they are as individuals.
But how can you tell if what you’re seeing is cause for concern? Keep reading below for the signs to look out for that may indicate your children need help dealing with sibling rivalry.
1.Is the rivalry playful? Or does it leave one or both feeling angry or hurt? An angry or hurt reaction is a sign that the rivalry needs to be addressed.
2. Siblings generally state they don’t want to be in the same room with each other, but does one actually seem fearful or uncomfortable being around the other? It is never normal or acceptable for one of your children to fear the other.
3. Words do hurt. Any words that impact the self-esteem of the other child is not ok. This can vary from family to family. One sibling can hear “stupid head” and laugh it off, but in another family the child may actually feel stupid and that can impact her functioning. Evaluate your children’s self-esteem, and if there are any deficits, listen to see if the sibling rivalry is making a negative contribution.
4. Siblings push, grab, bump, and wrestle. It’s important to have the following family rule: no injuries. Play fighting does not include actual injury. If one child is injured, it’s no longer play, it’s just fighting. Some families have the rule “no physical play” and that’s ok too. If your children’s play inevitably turns into a fight, or it sets one of them off on an emotional roller coaster, encouraging contact free play is probably for the best.
5. Look for a loss of control. Your children should be able to calm down or back off of a fight. In other words, your children should know the line, and not cross it. If one or both of your children struggle with hearing feedback, difficulty controlling their aggression, or have poor emotional regulation, then increased parent supervision is ideal. Your child may need your watchful eyes to help guide him to make the best choice with his sibling.
Bottom line: If one child is distraught or distressed then the rivalry has gone too far. It is possible to be traumatized by a sibling and action needs to be immediately taken by the parent. Supervision is essential in this instance. Read here for tips on ending sibling rivalry.
Please comment below: Did you have a sibling rivalry when you were a child? How do you manage rivalry between your children?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health.