You know the question is rhetorical, right? Everyone wants their kids to get along (I hope).
But here’s the thing.
Many of us believe that it’s out of our control. We have some babies and cross our fingers that their personalities will mesh well. I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that wishful thinking has a low success rate. The good news is that we, as the parents, have a great deal of influence over sibling relationships.
Where Does Sibling Rivalry Come From?
According to the book Siblings Without Rivalry, it comes from a child’s deep desire for the exclusive love of his or her parents. Makes sense. When you start adding siblings to the mix, suddenly there’s less of Mom and Dad to go around. And so we fight to be the first, the best, and mobilize all of our forces to stand out.
Which Scenario(s) Describes Your Upbringing?
Baby of the Family- You or your younger sibling were the “baby” in the family. The baby received special privileges, more toys, and got away with most things. Even now as the adult, they are still “babied” and could do no wrong by Mom and Dad.
No Conflict- Being angry or mad at each other was not allowed. You had to love them no matter what and Mom and Dad would see to it that you were. Instead, you resented your siblings, had a passive/aggressive relationship, and as adults, have a surface-level relationship at best.
Poor Conflict Resolution- People in your family just never knew how to effectively move past things. Apologies were rare and conflicts were rarely fully resolved. As such, deep resentment built up causing riffs in relationships that may have carried onto adulthood.
High Achieving– Things came “easy” to your sibling. They were smart, athletic, and popular- seemingly with little effort. You, on the other hand, were clawing to keep up. You still might to this day. Or, eventually you gave up and rebelled.
Dependable, Good Child/High Expectations– You were the one that Mom and Dad could count on. When your brothers or sisters were wreaking havoc, your parents didn’t have to worry about you. Consequently, they didn’t have to spend as much time with you. Their incessant reminders of how “easy” you were put undue pressure for you to never make mistakes or mess up. Perhaps now as an adult, you’re a perfectionist.
Major Distress Brought Closeness– Is your family close as a result of a traumatic experience? Maybe your parents got divorced, a parent abandoned the family, or some other tragedy occurred. In which case, everyone banded together and became close through this.
These are just a few common scenarios for upbringing mentioned in the book and in our book group. You may be one or a combination of any or some other situation that I didn’t cover. Ideally you grew up in a home where your parents had a great relationship and you were extremely close with your siblings. Not many people can make that claim.
Over the new few weeks as we continue with book group, I’ll be posting chapter summaries from the book Siblings Without Rivalry to uncover what we can do as parents to help our kids get along. In the meantime, here are some questions you can ask yourself as mental warm-up:
- Is there anything you do with your children that seems to help their relationship?
- Is there anything you do that seems to make it worse?
- Do you remember what your parents did that increased the hostility between you and your siblings?
- Did they ever do anything that decreased the hostility?