What is sibling rivalry

Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, conflicts, squabbles, clashes, and animosity amongst siblings.

It is the competition for parental love, attention, and approval,

and the fighting for everything from toys, who controls the remote,

time in the bathroom, and who gets the last sip of lemonade.

In many instances...

sibling rivalry is a common problem with growing families.

Sibling rivalry occurs amongst siblings who live under the same roof

and/or share at least one of the same parents.

 

Sibling rivalry has been one of the oldest problems

throughout all humanity. 

Sibling rivalry is inevitable because we were sinful at birth.

We were sinful from the time our mothers conceived us.

All men inherited a corrupt sin nature.

(Psalm 51: 5)

 Our sinful nature shows up early in life.

 Sibling rivalry usually starts right before or soon after the arrival of the second child. 

Most often, sibling rivalry starts right after the birth of another child.

Sibling rivalry is as old and as unavoidable as time itself.

It is the "Bad blood", unfriendliness, malice, loathing, tension,

feuding, or hostility between brothers and/or sisters which manifests itself in circumstances

much like the sibling rivalry as seen in the pages of the Bible.

One of the first stories within the pages of the Bible points to sibling

rivalry between two brothers, Cain and Abel.

The story of  Cain and Abel tells of one brother's jealousy

after God appeared to favor his sibling.

Cain's jealousy ultimately led to murder.


God looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.

Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

God asked Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?

 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?

But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;

it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

God warned Cain about potential sin.

But even so, Cain murdered Abel.

Then God asked to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied...

This was the first case of  sibling rivalry ...

with dire consequences.

Gen. 4:4-9

, which is to say,

"Does one have a moral obligation to attend to the well-being

of their brothers and sisters?"

 The older brother, Cain, was irritated at constantly having to help take care

of his younger brother, Abel, and kept asking his parents:

 God does not respond directly, but of course, the answer is:

The story of these two brothers had a tragic ending;

Cain rose up against, his brother, Abel and killed him

(and this, according to the Bible,

was the first murder in history). 

The fact that this is one of the first stories

within the Bible shows the great importance given to

the problem of sibling rivalry.



"Who are those that I should consider as my brothers and sisters?"

Jesus and His Apostles repeatedly tell their followers to

"Love one another as brothers." 

This repeated admonition may tend to give a certain impression that

"Brotherly love" is a natural condition that will come forth "By itself"

whenever there are brothers or sisters within a family,

and that parents don't have to do anything except relax and watch the unfolding

of this wonderful "natural" phenomenon... not so.

Nowadays, most parents don't seem very concerned with

the possible occurrence of this problem within their families.

As parents, we have the task of
 

smoothing jealous feelings among our children

and promoting sibling harmony. 

  

 

Jacob was jealous of Esau’s birthright

and his father’s favoritism (Gen. 25:28-34).

Rebekah overheard Isaac's decision to bless Esau.

Rebekah loved Jacob more.

She schemed to get the blessing for Jacob (Gen. 27:8-10,14-17).

Rebekah knew that God had chosen Jacob from the beginning (Gen. 25:23).

Rebekah and Isaac were united in marriage, but separate in spirit. 

Rebekah and Isaac drew their sons into their conflict.

As parents, we have the task of promoting a peaceful coexistence

among our children and promoting sibling peace and harmony

within the family structure.

 

Leah was jealous of Rachel’s beauty (Gen. 29:17).

The rivalry between Leah and Rachel was bitter,

made worse by their father Laban,

a devious and unscrupulous man.

Leah and Rachel competed for Jacob's love.

 

Jacob made the mistake of giving Joseph

a richly ornamented robe.

 

"And his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than all his brothers ..." (Gen. 37:4).

In other words, Jacob's other sons perceived that as favoritism.

If parents show favoritism toward a child,

they can harm and even destroy sibling relationships.

 

Joseph's brothers were jealous and referred to him

as "your (Jacob's) son" instead of "our brother" (Gen. 37:19,26-28,31-32).

 They would not speak a kind word to Joseph.

They called Joseph a dreamer.

They plotted to kill him and sold him in spite of his pleadings.

They had no love for Joseph.

Joseph's Dream
 
 

Joseph had a difficult journey.

This young man was hated for being the object of his father’s affection

and for having a gift that was given to him by God.

Jacob favored Joseph because he was Rachel's child and the son of his old age.

He also favored Joseph because he was much younger than most of his brothers,

and he was a good, faithful, and thoughtful young man. 

Joseph did what was right, while his older brothers often did very wrong things.

Joseph sometimes brought back bad reports about his brothers,

and this made them very angry. 

When Joseph shared his dreams with his brothers,

he was not trying to set himself above his brothers.

He was simply sharing and hoping that

he was going to receive clarity about his dreams. 

Joseph's brothers did not like his dreams

because they thought Joseph felt he was better than they were.

When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, 

they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. 

And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us?

Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?”

So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 

Genesis 37:8

Joseph was so focused on how great his dreams were for him,

he did not begin to consider how the dreams would sound

in the ears of others.

 

Have you ever been in a place like this?
 

A place where you were NOT trying to brag or boast

 but you simply needed clarity? 

In ancient times, dreams were a serious matter, treated

with respect. God often used dreams to tell of some future

event, or warn people of approaching times of crisis.

Those who were able to interpret dreams quickly rose to

positions of importance within the empire. 

 

 So as the story goes...

a few days later Joseph's father asked him to check on his brothers.

They were in the fields quite a distance away. So Joseph went to find them.

When the brothers saw Joseph in the distance,

they recognized him by his brightly ornamented robe;

and one said to another: "Look, that dreamer is coming!"

 They began to talk to each other about how they could get rid of him.

"Come, let us kill him, and throw his body into a pit,

and tell our father that some wild beast has eaten him;

and then we will see what becomes of his dreams."

When Reuben, Joseph's oldest brother,

heard this he felt more kindly toward Joseph.  

He said, "Let's not kill him, just throw him in a well

out here in the field." He said this because he was secretly

planning to come back and rescue Joseph when the other

brothers had left.

So when Joseph came to them,

they took off his beautiful robe

and they threw him in an empty well.

The brothers must have had a perverse pleasure

as they ripped the brightly ornamented robe off Joseph, 

and it must have been particularly painful for Joseph to have it torn off  him.

They threw Joseph in a well - Image © Play & Learn

A little while later a group of traders came by
 
that were wanting to sell some things in Egypt.

The heartless character of these brothers was clear -

they ate a meal with Joseph nearby in the pit.

How heartless...

that one can sit down and enjoy food

while their hearts were bent on murdering their brother.

One of the brothers spoke up,

"Why don't we sell him to these people,

 this way we never have to see him again,

and we don't have to kill him."

The other brothers liked this idea,

so they sold Joseph to the traders

who were going to Egypt. 

 They put Joseph’s dreams to the ultimate test.

If the dreams really were from God,

they would not be defeated by the hatred of the brothers.

Unfortunately, Reuben had been working and did not see what happened. 

When he returned to the well he noticed that Joseph was gone. 

He was sold to an important man named Potiphar, an assistant to the Pharaoh of Egypt.

 As the eldest, Reuben could have simply said to his brothers,

“This is wrong! We can’t do this!” Reuben wanted to do right by Joseph,

but did not want to alienate his brothers.

His desire to be nice to everyone failed to prevent a great evil.
 

The evil doings of Joseph’s brothers

were ordained of God and meant for the good.


 The rest of the brothers took Joseph's beautiful robe

and dipped it in animal blood

 

and took it back to their father.

When the father saw this he cried,

"Some animal has killed my son."

 And he cried for many days,

so much that nobody could comfort him.

 All the brothers kept silent about the truth. 

 

Sometimes people in life that are closest to us can misunderstand our intentions

and try to cause us grief. If only Joseph’s brothers would have been more discerning

as opposed to jealous, they would have known that they had the same gift as Joseph.

While we may not be born into families of people who think like us and share our values,

there are many people in the world who can provide the support

that our family members may be unable to give. 

 

Afterwards, Joseph was escorted to Potiphar’s place. 

Joseph started out as a slave, but God was with Joseph and He helped him do everything right.

So Potiphar made him his helper, and put Joseph in charge of everything that he owned.

Joseph, later, found himself entangled in a mansion trap

with Potiphar’s wife.

Joseph rejected the overtures of Potiphar's wife.

In turning to run from her room Potiphar's wife pulled and ripped

the outer garment away from Joseph's shoulders. 

 Potiphar's wife lied about Joseph to her husband,

so Potiphar had Joseph put into jail.

   Occasionally, as we climb up the next rung of the ladder
 

 we may encounter weak steps that will try to cause us to fail and fall.

This was clearly an attempt for Joseph to do both. 

God was still with Joseph in jail, and the warden put

Joseph in charge of all the prisoners.

He never worried because God was with him

and helped him do everything right.

 

We are not hopeless

unless we abandon hope.

 

 After Joseph had been in jail for some time

a cup bearer and baker to Pharaoh had been sent there.

One night each of them had a dream. They told their dreams to Joseph

and he told the cup bearer that he would soon be let out of jail. 

"Please tell Pharaoh about me, and ask him to get me out of here." Joseph said.

When the cup bearer was freed he forgot about what Joseph did.

So Joseph stayed in jail for two more years.

Until one day the Pharaoh had a dream, and nobody could explain it to him.

The cup bearer then remembered what Joseph had done for him,

and Joseph was brought to Pharaoh.

"Can you understand dreams?"  Pharaoh asked.

"I can't, but God helps me."  Joseph replied. 

After Pharaoh had told him his dream Joseph explained, "God is warning you. 

There will be seven years when nothing will grow and there won't be any food for anyone."

"What can I do?" Pharaoh asked.

"God has shown you what to do.

There will be seven years before the bad years that will be very good.

So good that there will be extra food for everyone.

So you should save a little bit of each years harvest,

that way you will have enough to get you through the bad years." Joseph said. 

 

Pharaoh believed all that Joseph told him,

and made him governor of all the land of Egypt.

Only Pharaoh would have more power than Joseph in Egypt!

 

Joseph organized the land and set up a system
 
for collecting grain.
The seven years of plenty soon passed by, and then came the years of need.
 
In all the lands around people were hungry, and there was no food for them to eat;
 
but in the land of Egypt everybody had enough.
 
Most of the people soon used up the grain that they had saved:
 
many had saved none at all, and they all cried to the king to help them.
 
"Go to Joseph," said King Pharaoh, "and do whatever he tells you to do."
Then the people came to Joseph,
 
and Joseph opened the storehouses.
They sold to the people all the grain that they wished to buy.
 
And not only the people of Egypt came to buy grain,
 
but people of all the lands around as well,
 
for there was great need and famine everywhere.

And the need was as great in the land of Canaan, where Jacob lived, as in other lands.
 
Jacob was rich in flocks and cattle, and gold and silver; but his fields gave no grain,
 
and there was danger that his family and his people would starve.
 
And Jacob,—who was now called Israel also,—heard that there was food in Egypt,
 
and he said to his sons:
 
"Why do you look at each other, asking what to do to find food?

I have been told that there is grain in Egypt. Go down to that land,

and take money with you, and buy grain, so that we may have bread, and may live." 

People came from all countries to buy grain from Joseph,

because the whole world was in need of food.

  Some of those people were Joseph's brothers.

They did not know him, as a grown man, dressed as a prince,

and seated on a throne.

It had been almost twenty-three years since they had sold him. 

But Joseph knew them all, as soon as he saw them.

He resolved to be sharp and stern with them, not because he hated them,

but because he wished to see what their spirit was,

and whether they were as selfish, and cruel, and wicked as they had been in other days.

They came before him, and bowed, with their faces to the ground.

Then, no doubt, Joseph thought of the dream that had come to him while he was a boy,

of his brothers' sheaves bending down around his sheaf.

He spoke to them as a stranger, as if he did not understand their language. 

After a few meetings with his brothers he could not keep it in any longer

and Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph! 

Is my father alive?" 

But his brothers couldn't answer him because they were afraid. 

Then Joseph said, "Come here. 

I am your brother, the one you sold! 

Do not worry, and do not be angry at yourselves for selling me,

because God has put me here to save people from starving."

Joseph refused to be a slave to bitterness. He let his anger towards his brothers go

and told them not to hate themselves for what they had done.

Joseph embracing his brothers in Egypt showed mercy upon them

 Although Joseph's brothers did terrible things to him,

Joseph forgave them because he loved God and his brothers. 

 Joseph's impulse was to take care of his family. 

So his father, his brothers, and their families

came to live in Egypt with Joseph,

and they had all the food they needed.


 There was an obvious change in Joseph’s life.

Joseph went in as a slave but his unique, God-given ability to interpret dreams

brought him out as a governor.

He went from rags to riches in literally one day!

Joseph’s God-given ability to interpret dreams allowed him to “enlighten” Pharaoh

and Joseph’s situation was “enlivened”

by God. 

Based on Genesis 37

 

 

Parents play a huge role in creating jealousy amongst siblings. In some instances,

situations are caused by the parents which can perpetuate bitter sibling rivalry.

 The greater the difference in the maternal affection and attention,

the more hostility and conflict between the siblings.

 Yes, sibling rivalry can begin, in some cases,

even before a child is born

and can...

and often does

continue into adulthood.

Sometimes, siblings who fought as children, 

grow up to find that their sibling has become their worst enemy!

Some sibling rivalry can cause permanent enmity between adult siblings. 

Some psychologists believe that moderate doses of sibling rivalry
 
can help children learn to share, compromise, and negotiate with others.
 
 
 

Many children are fortunate enough

to become the best of friends with their siblings;

however, it is also common for siblings to go back and forth

between loving and respecting to loathing one another!


Sadly, some families are ripped apart

by jealousy, rage, and indignation.


Siblings who age and continue to dislike each other tend to be more distrustful
 
and their outcomes tend to be extremely bad or serious.

Discord sown early can endure for a lifetime.

On the other hand,

those adults who have less sibling rivalry can provide more support and companionship,

share beautiful memories, and help each other more through life's inevitable changes.

Closeness can be a beautiful thing...

especially, when we need a shoulder to cry on,

want to vent our frustrations, or have to make difficult family decisions.

Adult siblings should provide encouragement... not judgment.

They should know how to motivate, nurture, fight fairly,

and be civil with one another.

             Sibling rivalry is a difficult and sometimes painful issue

for many families to deal with. 

                                                    

                       

It is very common for children

to regard the new baby

as an intruder.

For a moment...

let us try putting ourselves behind the eyes

of that older child.

When the first child is born, ALL of the parents' available

time and attention is only for that one child.

  Siblings can be profoundly affected

by their mother's interaction

with the new baby.

 The new baby is always in mom's arms, 

and mommy’s lap and caresses seem to be disappearing...

from the older sibling's perspective.

 

 When friends and relatives come to visit,

even they may pay more attention to the baby

than to the older child.

 

  It will always take time for the first child to get used to

a new baby vying for its mother’s affections.

 Getting the elder child involved in the baby’s routine early on

can help to make them feel included.

The older child was the center of attention for years,

until all of a sudden, a new baby comes into the home

and gets lots of presents and requires a little more of mommy time.

That means a little less quality time for mommy to spend with the other child(ren).

From a young age, siblings are sensitive to differences in parental treatment.

The older and sometimes the younger sibling might be jealous of the attention

that the other gets.

 
Sometimes sibling rivalry can be a personality clash between siblings, 

but quite often it is feelings such as jealousy which cause sibling rivalry.

 

  Some siblings will always feel that the other one is being given more privileges

and more freedom than they are. But no matter why it happens,

it still needs to be addressed so that everyone can get along.

Sometimes sibling rivalry doesn't start until later in the sibling relationship.

Nobody can really predict the effect that a second child will have on the first.

 Depending on their ages, the first child may start whining and crying.

It is often hard to believe that so much personality

can be packed into such a small body.

It is important to remember that every child is different

and reacts differently to the arrival of a sibling.

  There may be regression in development

(wetting the bed, refusing to use the potty, daytime wetting accidents, etc.),

and lots of jealousy.

 It can continue as the children grow and compete

for everything from toys to attention.

 

As disturbing as it might be in your household, take heart:

 It is rare to find a family without this friction.

Sibling rivalry is one the oldest problems and can be a persistent problem for all sentient beings.

 

"Me first!"     "I'm going to tell!" 

 "Stop it!"

"Give it back!"

"It's Mine!" 

"Mommy!!!!!"

 

Does any of this sound familiar

 If you have more than one child, the answer is probably "Yes,"

because the sounds of bickering, battling and fighting between siblings

is a common, difficult, and sometimes painful struggle in many families. 

  

 

One of the reasons for sibling rivalry is basically one of competition for limited or scarce resources.

In nature, the competition is usually for food. Whenever there are two individuals or species

that consume the same type of food in the same area (or habitat) they will fight with each other

until one of them manages to kill or drive the other out,

leaving the winner with the exclusive use of the food resources available in that area. 

Just as siblings may scuffle over who gets the front seat or access to the TV remote control,

some bird siblings jock for position in their nests.

Those with winning moves can sit in the spot where mom is most likely to deliver food.   

Sibling rivalry arises between dogs

 when there is instability in the dominance hierarchy.

Dogs usually establish their dominance hierarchies

through a series of ritualized behaviors that include body postures,

giving each other looks and vocalizations.

Soon the dogs start to growl over space or other resources.

In many homes, dominance is settled by one dog snarling a challenge

and the other dog accepting a subordinate role.

 In nature there are some extreme cases of sibling rivalry.

  For example, as baby sharks develop within the mother shark's womb,

the biggest baby shark devours all of his brothers and sisters,

ensuring for himself all of the available food resources. 

 A similar competition exists between siblings in human families. 

 

 

  

 The sibling bond is often complicated and is influenced by factors such as parental treatment,

birth order, personality, as well as, interactions with others and experiences outside the family. 

Once in a while it is worth secretly watching how siblings behave together.

    

By age three, children have a sophisticated grasp

of how to use social rules for their own ends.

They can evaluate themselves in relation to their siblings

and possess the developmental skills necessary

to adapt to frustrating circumstances and relationships in the family.

Each child feels they are unique and rightly so- they are unique,

and they resent being evaluated only in relation

to someone else.

Instead of comparison,

each child in the family should be given

their own goals and levels of expectation

that relate only to them.

 

Many parents feel that in order to be fair

they must try to treat their children equally.

It's not possible,

and it can be dehumanizing if a mother feels that when she hugs one child

she must stop and hug all of her children.

Hugs soon become somewhat meaningless in that family.
 
 

If each child feels valued and loved,

and is not compared to his or her siblings,

then sibling rivalry should not become

a serious problem in the family.

  

 

As siblings reach different stages of development,

their evolving needs can significantly affect

how they relate to one another. 

Some children welcome
 a brother or sister into the home as a playmate.  
     

 Sibling rivalry can involve aggression. 

The older child can become aggressive, “act out”,

or regress (act more like a baby).

 Young children are capable of experiencing anger

and jealousy and may vent their feelings

through unkind words and acts.

Research indicates that the older child’s personality

has the most effect on how they react to a new baby. 

Rivalry is particularly intense

when children are of the same gender. 

 Sibling rivalry usually continues throughout childhood.

When fighting turns into constant arguments,

fights, and the creation of some

potentially dangerous situations,

it should be dealt with... immediately!

Sibling abuse is not to be tolerated. If danger is apparent, remember safety first.

When in doubt, intervene.

We must nip verbal and/or physical abuse in the bud before it gets out of hand.

Both experience and research has shown that without parental guidance,

siblings with bad relationships are likely to grow into adults with bad relationships.

The more they are allowed to fight as children,

the more they are likely to fight as adults.

 

Parents need to uncover the underlying fuel

for siblings arguing and fighting.

Underneath the bickering and fighting could be a heart issue.

It could be selfishness, jealousy, fear, defiance, or unkindness.

It may be that some children act out

because they are getting too much or not enough attention.


 

Being complacent and concluding that childhood relationships

will naturally grow from squabbling to peaceful... is being naïve. It does not.

The relationship is likely to get more intense when children grow up.

The abuse will not

if parents ignore it... look the other way...

blame the victim... excuse it as sibling rivalry...

or fail to believe their children when they are told about the abuse.

Sibling abuse, and a parent’s negative response to abuse,

can cause major problems during their tender years and as they become adults.

 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace

and to mutual edification.

Romans 14:9

The home and family is the first social relationship that children learn.

Parents should give clear messages about how they expect their children

to behave toward one another before arguments become a way of life.
 

Parents can reduce the opportunity for sibling rivalry by creating clear boundaries

for what is and what is not acceptable in the home.

 Children need to be told that to belittle, attack, or laugh at another's expense

is not funny, cute, or right.

Small insecure people belittle others. 

 

Children need to know that how they treat others...

speaks volumes about themselves.

When each child in a family feels like they are special to their parents,

sibling rivalry tends to decrease.

Parents should teach children to be kind and loving toward one another.

Parents should refuse to compare or hold up one child as a role model

or show favoritism toward a particular child.

Parents should make it known that they value their children's relationship to each other,

and expect them to value each other also.


Parents should offer their children

inspirational, encouraging, and edifying reminders such as:

Bullying in the home can be worse than on the school campus

because the victim must live with this every day.

Parents should make it crystal clear that bullying will not be allowed.

“Don’t even think about it!”


Let us always remember and never forget:

The deposits we make into our children's lives should be firm and genuine.

 
Our children need to be held accountable.
 

They need to know that God knows all... sees all... and that

everything is happening under God's watchful eye and His careful supervision.

Children need to understand that they are to treat other people,

siblings included, and their possessions with respect...

"Doing unto others as they would have others do to them."

 

God has given us the responsibility of training and educating our children well,

and sibling rivalry affords us another opportunity to do just that.


 

 

 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good

to those who love God,

to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28  

 

 

"Brotherly love" should be synonymous with

"Pure and unselfish love." 

 May we share responsibility toward all human beings.

May we treat our neighbors with kindness,

the poor with generosity —

and our siblings with both.

 

Dear Parents,

Whatever you are facing, as a parent,

and no matter how difficult your circumstances may appear to be…

God says to you, "Be Strong."

“Be strong in God... not in yourself.

Be strong in the power of God's might.

For it is not by your might nor your power,

but by God's Spirit that you shall overcome.  

Stay encouraged.

                                                                                    

 

 [email protected]

                                                                                                                                      

 

  www.carolecgood.com

   

 

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