Here’s a great article about sibling rivalry: Sibling Rivalry
I read a whole book about the topic when the kids were younger and still learning their roles as siblings and learning to coexist, but this article sums it up nicely:
How to turn sibling rivalry into sibling harmony
Our toddler and preschooler relationships have a dramatic effect on our identity, our self-concept, and the choices we make throughout our lifetime. In short, siblings influence each other in ways that parents can’t, says parenting educator Michael Grose, author of Thriving!: Raising Exceptional Kids With Confidence Character And Resilience (Random House, 2010).
For parents, the trick is to keep your expectations of sibling harmony in check, and to foster love between your children in whatever way possible – even when sibling rivalry rears its ugly head.
Be realistic with your expectations of sibling love
In The Mighty Toddler (Macmillan, 2005), Robin Barker writes that it’s common for most parents to have unrealistic expectations of how well their children will get along – and it can be unsettling for them when the inevitable conflict and sibling rivalry surfaces.
“Sometimes this is not evident until the younger child is mobile and begins to learn how to hurt the older child,” Barker writes. “Young children start to learn about each other’s weak spots and how to predict each other’s behavior, not only in the course of competing for their parents’ attention, but because they also enjoy the sneaky pleasure derived from the forbidden satisfaction of getting the better of someone.”
How to bring out the best in brothers and sisters
What siblings tell each other, how they treat each other and the roles assigned to each sibling by their parents can have either toxic or beneficial effects on an individual, says Elizabeth Pantley, author of Kid Cooperation: How To Stop Yelling, Nagging & Pleading And Get Kids To Cooperate (New Harbinger, 2010). Here are seven ways Pantley suggests parents can help bring the best out in brothers and sisters.
Elizabeth Pantley’s 7 tips to avoid sibling rivalry
- Remember it’s normal. Bear in mind that “conflict is normal and rivalry comes not from their feelings about each other, but from their need to be loved by their parents.”
- Set the scene for peace. “Use routines and rules. Avoid situations that breed rivalry.”
- Don’t be the referee – stand back and back off and let them work it out. “Allowing your children to drag you into each and every dispute is unhealthy for their relationship, and frustrating for you.”
- Encourage positive communication. “Keep your words positive, make suggestions and let kids decide what to do with them. Discourage dobbing by a rule such as ‘unless there’s blood or something’s broken, we don’t need to hear about it!’”
- Show positive attention. “Appreciate children for who they are. Don’t compare.”
- Fair does not necessarily mean equal.“Focus on each child’s individual needs.”
- Encourage sibling love. “Look for the good by saying things such as ‘that’s kind of you to let your brother go first’. Stir up exciting feelings of giving and caring that build love between your children.”
Remember that sibling rivalry teaches life lessons
The next time you’re ready to tear out your hair during a sibling squabble, take comfort from the fact that sibling rivalry is teaching toddler and preschool aged children valuable and lasting lessons. “Living with, loving and learning about one another’s strengths and weaknesses is a valuable experience for children,” writes Barker. “It teaches them a lot about compromise, competitiveness and conflict.”