Adults, especially those who have been single children or those who have forgotten their growing up years or those who have no teenager home, assume that sibling rivalry is something relevant only to small children. However, that is completely untrue. Teenage siblings squabble a lot too. Whether they are six or sixteen, children still find it difficult to articulate their feelings and they tend to take out their suppressed feelings on their brother or sister. The easiest solution of all is to separate squabbling siblings. Though that may solve the problem temporarily and give you some peace, it is not a long-term solution and teaches your child absolutely nothing. The most common reason for sibling rivalry is jealousy. Elder children resent younger children as they feel these new arrivals have usurped their position and have diverted away their parents’ love and attention. The younger ones resent the elder ones because they find it hard to digest that it is only the older ones who are considered sensible and sensitive and they are always considered immature and wayward. Everyone hates their order of birth.
The solution for this is to understand that this is a call for love and attention. We have to make sure that the children are getting it adequately. Another reason for sibling rivalry is competitiveness. Children hate being compared to another. Parents and teachers tend to compare siblings. Statements like, “Why can’t you write neatly like your brother?”, “Your sister used to solve such kind of problems easily. Why can’t you?” tend to aggravate children. Make sure you never make such statements and let the teachers know that you do not want them to compare your children with each other too. Each child is unique. Allow them to develop their skills and abilities accordingly.
One more issue that can spiral out of control and create huge fights among siblings is boundary issue. Children, even teenagers, do not like to share their things. Teenagers place value over their special possessions and they crave privacy. “Don’t touch my guitar!”, “Get out of my room!” etc. are the usual screams released by them on their siblings. In such situations find out what is the problem, call them to the kitchen table and have a calm session on how they need to communicate their problems. Teach them how to negotiate, compromise and arrive at peace. While it is usual to want to scream and yell at them, try not to yield to that urge. You are setting a very bad example and you are validating that it is okay to scream and shout when unhappy.
It is okay for your children to argue among themselves but give them a time limit to sort out the issue. If they are unable to sort out within that time, only then should you step in. If the squabbles are too many, then draw up an agreement and list all the rules of the house along with consequences for not obeying them. Make the kids sign the same and hold them up to it. Each child needs some one-to-one time with each parent. You need to make sure that you spend some time with each child alone. Though this is hard to do, the benefits of the same can impact the entire household and can help solve most sibling rivalry issues.