Sibling Interactions: Laying The Foundations For Harmony
Stephen A. Peterson
Parents/Caregivers want their children to get along with each other. But when there is rivalry between siblings or friction in the form of jealousies, quarreling, name-calling or fighting, this upsets parents/caregivers, and family harmony. How parents/caregivers prevent such unfavorable interactions among their children is a problem in many American homes.
Basically, trouble between siblings can general be traced to two factors: (1) parents’/caregivers’ attitudes toward their children, and (2) parents/caregivers taking for granted that their children will get along with each other just because they belong to the same household.
Siblings are able to be good friends. Siblings are able to live under the same roof in relative peace. However, to achieve these goals, parents/caregivers must utilize a great deal of understanding, knowledge and be willing to be good observers of their children’s behavior and set reasonable and rational boundaries for their children. The following are some of the things parents/caregivers may do to encourage harmony among their children.
There are four (4) variables parents/caregivers may keep in mind concerning their children:
First, there will be differences in their children based upon age, gender, interest, and skills. Interests, abilities, and activities among children, more than some are willing to admit are depends upon their age and gender.
For example, ten year old, Nicholas, is beginning to take an interest in playing football and desires to pay on a team with boys who are likely to have a similar interest. These boys usually become a tightly knit group of boys interested in football. If a parent(s)/caregiver(s) want Nicholas to include his six year old brother or sister in their son’s practice, the parents/caregivers may, without realizing it engender conflict among siblings. The younger brother or sister may or may not be interested in football. The older brother may not be interested in a younger brother or sister tagging along in his new found group. Because children live, work and play on different levels according to their ages and, in some instance their gender, parents/caregivers should recognize that each child in their family should be able to form friendships with children their own age and gender. Then when he or she is at home, he/she is more likely to work, live and play more harmoniously with their sibling or siblings than if their contacts are limited to the home.
Second, in any home where there are siblings, there is going to be conflict to some degree. The conflict may be in the form of arguing, jealousy, or fighting. Some conflict exists among siblings may not always be the responsibility of the parents/caregivers. At times, friction is due to social norms. Although society has changed its stance with regards to gender behavior, some sanctions remain. Only when parents/caregivers emphasize one gender over another, one child’s talents over another, and one child’s achievements over another will conflict eventually arise.
Third, without being aware of it, parents/caregivers are prone to favor children of the opposite gender. Mothers have been found to show partiality towards their sons; father towards their daughters. This often leads to the inconsistent setting of boundaries/discipline and the granting of favors more freely of the favored gender. Although our knowledge of childhood behavior and development has increased, every so often one may observe opposite gender favoritism. Because women continue to dominate with regards to child rearing, boys are found to receive more favors than their sisters causing conflict and rebellion among the girl or girls in the family.
Fourth, siblings have different abilities, skills and interests regardless of age or gender differences. Generally, these differences are not so distinctive in the preschool years. After the preschool years distinctions begin to grow as your children’s interest begin to take root. Brett, age 13, has taken an interest in botany spending a great deal time studying any tree he sees. His sister, Brittany, 10 years old, enjoys playing her violin. She spend much of her time practicing. Brett and Brittany’s 7 year old brother, Scott, has just taken an interest in basketball and hardly does anything else. Brett complains that Brittany’s playing the same one piece of music all day is driving him crazy. Brett takes Brittany’s sheet music and throws it away. Angered Brittany takes Brett’s favorite leaf collections and hides it.
The argument between the siblings was so intense the parents were required to step in. Brett admitted to taking Brittany’s sheet music and throwing it away. Brittany admits to taking Brett’s leaf collection. Brittany returns the leaf collection to Brett. Brett was required to replace his sister’s sheet music. Both children were required to come with reasonable ways of reconciling disputes in the future.
Every parent should recognize that conflicts will occur among their children. Helping children live in harmony within the home is crucial to the family and for their futures as they form their own families.