The mischievous son with an incredible knack for trouble who seems to delight in torturing his sister… The mildly deceptive daughter who takes great satisfaction in taking tattling to the extreme… Every time you try to help – the truth gets twisted, fingers are pointed, and the fighting continues, even worse than before. Sound familiar? Rest assured, as a parent you are not alone.

Sibling rivalry is an age-old dynamic that has affected generations for as long as we can remember. Many family therapists have found that sibling rivalry can really impact quality of family life, family communication, parental stress, and self-esteem in children.

Sibling rivalry can be best understood as children engaging in an allout competition for their parents’ love and attention. Approval and affection are at stake, and your children will go to great lengths to get it. It’s a perfect breeding ground for conflict and envy over each others’ accomplishments, privileges, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Gaining insight into the emotional fireworks behind sibling rivalry can really empower parents to improve communication and change family roles to promote cooperation. The irony of sibling rivalry is that those hostile feelings between siblings cannot be resolved until they are allowed to surface. By promoting an environment that discourages or does not allow fighting, we perpetuate conflict and underlying feelings of hostility by failing to acknowledge them. Instead, parents can create an atmosphere where hostile feelings between siblings can be safely expressed and understood.

Moreover, sibling rivalry creates a “Catch-22” for well-intentioned parents who play referee to put an end to the never-ending squabbles. No matter what you do to end the fighting, one or both siblings will feel they have been treated unfairly; or that you have taken the other side, only to leave you looking like the bad guy!

Now is the time to embrace the role of facilitator and teacher where you encourage your children to settle their disputes on their own. After all, there is no better teacher than you. Parents feel relieved to learn that they can successfully implement some concrete tools while playing an invaluable role in restoring peace to their family.

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Author's Bio: 

Michael R. Dell, MSW, LCSW
1736 South Garfield Street
Near Colorado Blvd. and I-25
Denver, CO 80210

303-757-0734 - Office