I was the youngest of three boys, all born within 33 months! Do you think we ever had any sibling rivalry? Oh, yes! Three young boys with all that pent-up energy! We hit. We wrestled. We fought with words, yet overall we were really well-behaved children.

Our father, (You thought I was going to say the Lord’s Prayer, didn’t you? Well, sometimes we needed to!), used to be an amateur boxer before he got married, so one Christmas three sets of boxing gloves emerged from the wrappings.

People ask me, “How did you do?” I told you I was the youngest. I bled! Well, boxing gloves may not be everybody’s choice, but I bet there have been times when you wish you had a set of gloves to give to your squabbling kids to duke it out.

Do you ever think you might be the only parents suffering from kids that don’t get along? Forget it! Any family with more than one child experiences sibling rivalry in varying forms. Boys tend to be more physical with their aggression. Girls fight more with words and emotions.

For me and my brothers, sibling rivalry was over before we got to high school. For our own two children it didn’t stop until we moved to the USA when they were 19 and 21 years old. I’ve seen families where the rivalry has never stopped and the adults are in the 40-60 year-old bracket!

What’s really strange is when you go to a parent/teacher conference and you walk out of the meeting three feet above the ground because you’ve just been told your kid’s a model student. You think, “That teacher doesn’t know her students very well! She surely had to be talking about someone else’s kid!”

Just remember that sibling rivalry goes back a long way in history. Cain killed Abel out of jealous rivalry. So, what causes this?

  1. Kids are jealous for attention, your attention.
  2. Kids are protective of their possessions.
  3. Kids want what their sibling has in their hands.
  4. Kids have the inherited problem of selfishness, just like most of mankind.
  5. Kids want to exercise power and control even at a young age once they discover they have it. Sometimes this never disappears, especially when adults have insecurity problems.

What’s the answer, then?

  1. Kids need to be taught to be kind to each other. Training is never instant so, like weaning a child, you need to keep working on it until they have grasped this important character trait.
  2. Distraction is always a good discipline tool.
  3. Where distraction doesn’t work there needs to be a set of defined positive and negative consequences that you discuss with your children until they are familiar with them and then you need to apply those consistently.
  4. Teaching your children to share their possessions or placing time-limits on how long they can use technology or toys can save arguments developing.
  5. Removing the possession altogether is a workable solution if it is a common source of conflict.
  6. Calling names, tattling and generally stirring up trouble requires not only an apology, but severe consequences if the perpetrator is just trying to get the sibling in trouble.
  7. Boxing your kids with newly acquired gloves is not an option and may end up in bar time, and that’s not where drinks are served.

My advice to you:

    Keep working at solutions. Do NOT give up.
    Cause no harm to anybody, especially your family.
    Rent a hilarious movie and have a good old belly-laugh. It does wonders.

Written by Brian Burgess, School Counselor, PPE, Nashville TN (These are my opinions only, not PPEs)