Aaah yes, the source of frustration and stress for moms and dads around the world. Even in the closest of families, bouts of sibling bickering are a frequent occurrence. But why?
There are several factors that can contribute to sibling rivalry including sibling order, age, and the sex of the children. Sibling rivalry is often more intense and frequent when children are less than three years apart in age (mental note for those of you planning to add to your family!).
In addition to these factors, there are four other things that can play a part in sibling rivalry:
- When a child's basic needs are not met. Tired and hungry kids are generally not that pleasant for us to be around let alone a sibling whose fuse is shorter than ours. Making sure the kids are well fed and rested before sending them off to play will get them off to a better start.
- When a child wants attention. Kids will take whatever attention they can get, good or bad. Even negative attention is better than being ignored. Have you ever noticed that when you start tickling one child, the other comes in quickly for their turn!
- When a child wants or needs companionship. This is a big source of frustration in our home. Thing One always wants to play with Thing Two when she isn't in the mood or visa versa. It starts out with a request which quickly moves to manipulation or trickery to get someone to play with them and ultimately ends up in yelling, wrestling, pinching...I could go on but I think you get the picture. Sometimes they just don't know how to get their sibling to play with them so they pick a fight.
- When a child desires power. This seems to be a big theme in our house recently as Thing Two has taken to bossing his sister around, e.g., "Go get my coat," "Clear my plates," etc. Learning how to handle personal power and when it is appropriate to use it is an important life skill. Siblings use each other as "crash test dummies" (for lack of a better analogy) to practice and learn about personal power. They fight over toys, food, parental attention and anything else where they feel that they are not in control. Frustrating for them and for those on the receiving end to say the least!
Some of you out there with only one child might be thinking "Geez, those things usually cause my child to act out too." This is true. In general, these factors are the source of lots of acting out behaviors. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like having more than one child just increases the frequency :)
Next time we will talk about some things you can do to deal with sibling rivalry. Until then, have a great evening!