Sibling rivalry can be described as the ‘dysfunctional relationship’, between two humans born of the same parents, socially named brothers or siblings.
Rivalry means that the two or more kids in the family, are always trying to get the better of each other, by any means and prove themselves as best.
It can be between brothers or brother and sister duo, or sisters. Statistics say that this rivalry is more prominent in families, which have two kids than which have more.
And most of the times, this kind of rivalry leaves a long-term impression on the minds of the children, and even after they grow up, they tend to hate each other, while the issue may be different for adults (e.g. property share, relationship rights, etc.) but the notion is common- each one wishes that the other was never born.
“Samir was completely broken when his own elder brother turned his biggest enemy and was brainstorming his wife and child to leave the paternal home, as Shishir wanted the entire family property for himself.
Each day in the house passed like a nightmare, usual fights between Shishir and Samir (where Samir mostly willed for peace) turned the house into a marketplace. What was damaging is that these regular fights were now creeping within their children also, who unknowingly started harming each other, with the belief that they belonged to opponent parties. Samir often wondered, was it just the property? Maybe not, possibly the roots of this disaster lay in their childhood, where began this brotherly rivalry…… elder son Shishir always tried to prove himself the best as against Samir, who was moderate but fairly simple in conduct."
In most cases, this competitive attitude is never resolved inside a household for several reasons:
Sibling rivalry can start between brothers, sisters and the like, because the parents do not understand their responsibility.
When there are two or more children of same lineage, parents unintentionally develop biasness towards one or the other child due to some reasons (usually because he is the first child, or the youngest child, or may be the best looking one, or best in academics).
So consequently, parents tend to pamper the favoured child more, all the time, appreciating him/her every time and rewarding him/her with gifts and toys, in such situations the other child feels that parents love his brother or sister better than him, and this leads to a subdued anger within the neglected child.
Comparison in family is a stigma. Each child is unique and has his own abilities. But parents often fail to realize this, and very commonly they bring in comparisons between their children.
They try to exemplify one of their kids to the other and ask the other to become perfect like him, when they themselves do not know what is ideal. “Mom always tells me, try to be like your brother Ravi, else you can never become a doctor or engineer. Oh God! I want to be a cricketer like Dhoni," says Abhishek Mittal, a student of 12th standard in Delhi.
Unequal attention to children can be the cause of sibling rivalry. If parents are not always giving equal attention to each of their kids, it can cause deep dissatisfaction among them. Sometimes, a family may have a special child, or a physically weak kid, who the parents feel, require more care and attention, and in order to do their duty well; they forget their other kid/ kids who they feel are abler and can take care of themselves.
This causes a kind of dissatisfaction within the other kid being ignored, and he / she develops vengeance for his/her sibling, because they cannot do anything to their parents.
Recent film #HideAndSeek portrays this kind of rivalry significantly, where elder brother Abhimanyu hates his younger brother Om, because he was mentally unstable since childhood, and their parents cared for the latter more, so he conspired to send his brother off to an asylum.
When relationships between the families are not healthy enough, children can develop hatred for each other too.
If one of the child is bored and frustrated, he can bully his/her sibling to gain attention from everyone.
After all, human beings love themselves first. One who loves themselves can develop love for others, but self-love also leads to selfishness, and this is the major cause of sibling rivalry, where an individual tries to navigate and establish his/her identity.
Sibling rivalry can have long-term effects, and even when the children have grown up with each other, this hatred remains in their hearts, and gets expressed in real-life situations like if both siblings are in love with the same person, or siblings are fighting for their rights on ancestral property, or rights on their parents.
This eventually creates impact on the next generations, as well as on the old parents, who are in mental pain, seeing their children fighting. Sometimes, this can also have drastic consequences when siblings try to kill each other, as it happened for conjoined twins Anjana and Sanjana in the horror flick #Alone.
This can happen if the issue is ignored by parents, stating as ‘normal’ in their childhood.
How to deal with it?
Parents, please understand that rivalry is not something ‘normal’ or healthy. Only because it is commonly found in most families, does not make it acceptable. However, there is a way of handling everything.
- If you find one of your kids bullying the other, instead of protecting the bullied child immediately and bashing towards the bully, understand that both are kids. Talk to the kid whom you found bullying the other, try to know his perspective behind his attitude. Try and make him understand that this behaviour of him is not acceptable, and henceforth if it continues, he will miss on his rewards.
- Also make your bully child realize, that if he was bullied instead by any other kid, how he would be feeling.
- Stop comparing your children. Encourage each one individually for their respective talents.
- Please understand that nothing will automatically get rectified as they grow, be an active problem solver and infuse the maturity and wisdom in your kids, rather than expecting them to acquire it ‘naturally’.
- Reward them equally, revive yourself from any kind of biasness.
- When there is healthy relationship within the family, a congenial atmosphere prevails, and kids or learns to respect in other in the same family and outside as well.