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Let me help you pick your way through sibling minefields!
A recent report found the eldest child tends to be the smartest of their siblings. It's easy to picture how this translates into sibling rivalry - the elder teasing the younger about being "stupid". Or belittling younger siblings for their lack of knowledge or experience.
But sibling rivalry doesn't stop with issues of intelligence. Brothers and sisters can feel rivalry over their parents' attention, about who gets the best birthday presents, who “gets away” with more and receives lenient punishments - a claim my three older brothers made about me!
Previous research found that sibling rivalry, from mild to severe, occurs in the majority of families. From the Gallagher brothers of rock band Oasis to the talented sisters Julia and Nadia Sawalha (actresses and presenters) there been many rivalries between celebrity siblings.
No matter how hard parents try to treat their children equally, children's temperaments, needs and life events differ. And that means they get different treatment. How well siblings evaluate each other’s needs - and how they see their parents respond to these - affect levels of rivalry.
From personal experience I had one child with a serious, chronic illness who was in and out of hospital from age 18 months to 15 years. When not spending hours in the hospital I paid extra attention to my other child to ensure he didn't feel left out. However that attention could never match the days and nights spent in hospital visits. Obviously, he was very distressed when his sister nearly died on a number of occasions. But despite my best efforts, when she had periods of good health I noticed he had a certain rivalry towards her.
Sibling rivalry can be a nightmare in any family. Take my quick quiz to gauge your levels of sibling rivalry. Be honest no matter how guilty you feel about some of your answers!
1/ Do you begrudge your sibling the attention your parents give/gave them? Yes No
2 / Do you grudgingly congratulate your sister or brother for a job well done? Yes No
3/ Do you secretly seethe inside when something good happens to a sibling? Yes No
4/ If you’ve the chance to do something nice for a sibling or friend (like having an extra theatre ticket to give away) do you choose the friend? Yes No
5/ Do you have frequent rifts/rows with siblings that on hindsight seem unnecessary?
6/ When the chance arises do you criticise a sibling to your parents or to other siblings?
7/ Do you feel your parents had a favourite child? Yes No
8/ Do you think a sibling/s tries to monopolise your parents? Yes No
9/ Do you believe your sibling always got better presents or more money spent on them?
10/ Have you argued with your parents over getting worse treatment than your siblings?
1-2 Yes answers: Small Levels Sibling Rivalry!
On rare occasions you may have felt a sibling’s had preferential treatment. This is completely normal and nothing to cause concern. Do read the advice below for general tips on how to enhance what you’ve got.
3 to 5 Yes answers: Some Concerning Sibling Rivalry!
Your level of sibling rivalry should cause you some concern. There’s definitely room for improvement. Much of the advice below will help.
6-10 Yes answers: Serious Sibling Rivalry!
Oh dear, you probably have a volatile, love-hate relationship with your sibling/s. Worse yet, it maybe a hate-hate situation like ones I've come across in my coaching practise. Try these:
Solutions To Sibling Rivalry:
* Draw up a list of your sibling’s best characteristics. For example, can they be thoughtful, generous and listen to your problems? When feeling rivalry remind yourself of these important qualities to balance your negative feelings.
* What part do your personal successes and failures play in the ups-and-downs in your feelings of rivalry? Perhaps when you have a problem at work or with your partner, your sibling becomes an easy target to take it out on. Resist this!
* Be generous of spirit. When something good happens to your sibling lavish them with praise to show goodwill.
* Make a date to spend some time with your sibling on your own simply to enjoy each other's company.
* Explore your parents’ role in your feelings. If they've shown preferential treatment they might not even realise it. Raise it calmly with them and let them know you felt slighted. It's rare for a parent to show obvious favouritism. If unfortunate enough to have a parent like that remember it's not your sibling’s fault.
* If your sibling appears to cause rivalries or tries to do-you-down then choose a time when you can talk about it rationally. Begin by asking if they even realise that they’re making you feel this way. Suggest ways you can both improve your relationship.
* Finally, the easiest tip of all - treat your sibling the way you wish to be treated!
Published in The Express Newspaper
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