Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, conflicts,
squabbles, clashes, and animosity
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.
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...
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
Rebekah overheard Isaac's decision to bless Esau.
Rebekah loved Jacob more.
She schemed to get the blessing for Jacob
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
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 ..."
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"
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 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.
Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?
So they hated him even more
for his dreams and for his words.
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 began to talk to each other
about how they could get rid of him.
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.
The heartless character of these brothers was clear -
they ate a meal with Joseph nearby in the pit.
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 robeand 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 who 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
from the pit to the palace... 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.
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
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.
It is important to remember that every child is different
and reacts differently to the arrival of a sibling.
It can continue as the children grow and compete
for everything from toys to attention.
As disturbing as it might be in your household it is rare to find a family without this friction.
Sibling rivalry is one of the oldest problems
and can be a persistent problem for all sentient beings.
"I'm going to tell!"
"Give it back!"
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
and a parents 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.
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
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.
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.
"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.
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.