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Small Things Parents Can Do to Effectively Reduce Sibling Jealousy

Small Things Parents Can Do to Effectively Reduce Sibling Jealousy

Our relationships with our siblings are the most important in our lives. They are the ones we have known the longest and we share a lived experience that is unparalleled. But we have all heard the common terms “sibling rivalry” and “parental favoritism“.

Especially when children are very small, there is bound to be some conflict and competition, and sometimes parents get it wrong, dealing with children differently according to the ease of their personality traits.

If parents don’t address these issues early and guide the children to get along, support, accept and love each other unconditionally, they could jeopardize their adult relationships, not only with their siblings, but with other people in general.

With our brothers and sisters, we learn early on how to negotiate, share, nurture, protect, empathize, and avoid negative relationship attributes like jealousy, selfishness, aggression and misunderstanding. As parents, we need to ensure that children understand how to navigate relationships in a healthy way, regardless of the obstacles and difficulties that life may throw at them.

Remember: Your Children’s Individuality Deserves to Be Treated Equally

There are many signs that can demonstrate that there is an imbalance within sibling relationships, fuelling jealousy. Often these manifest unintentionally.

Honestly Ask Yourself If Your Different Treatment Is Responsible

Regardless of our kinship, we are all simply individuals who will get along with some people more than others, whether they are our parents or siblings. However, as guardians, we can ask ourselves some questions to determine if we are treating our children unequally by not making space for their individual differences. This quiz is a helpful guide to become more conscious of our behavior.

Many factors contribute to why siblings fight and why parents treat their children differently to one another. Children have their own individual personalities, and depending on their ages and developmental stages, they will relate to each other in varying ways. Parents too have a spectrum of personality traits and life experiences and will connect and relate to their children individually.

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To Ensure Your Children Grow Up Feeling Loved, You Should Be Objective

Sometimes though, it requires adults to be objective, to remove their personal feelings and emotional urges from their behavior, in order to implement the task of parenting and conflict management in a fair and equitable way. This will ensure that siblings grow up understanding two simple things:

  1. They are loved equally and unconditionally
  2. They are allowed and encouraged to be unique and different from one another, using their best qualities to compliment each other and coping with the personality traits that are likely to clash.

Otherwise, Your Children Can Become an Overly Competitive Person Living in Resentment

When these very simply factors aren’t addressed, what are seemingly insignificant feelings of jealousy and rivalry as children, can turn into full-blown resentment and irreparable rifts as adults.

Children feel as though they have to compete for their parents’ affection, they are judgemental and not accepting of their siblings’ personalities and life experiences and parents tend to lose close bonds with all their children as a result.

Once we have understood why sibling jealousy and parental favoritism can occur and the factors that contribute to them, we can begin to take action to address issues as they occur.

The biggest realization is that conflict is inevitable and healthy. We need to learn to “fight right” so that healthy conflict resolution and prosperous relationship bonds can take place [1].

Here are 5 ways to address sibling jealousy and parental favoritism:

Show Affection to Your Children In Response to Their Individual Needs

We can show affection to children in mutually responsive ways. Some children love to be hugged and kissed, others prefer their personal space.

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Affection and physical contact is vital to human bonding, but it is important to figure out the needs of the individual child. Show affection to your children in the way they prefer. If a child loves endless cuddles on your lap, you are not playing favorites if that is how they respond.

Just ensure that your other child, for example, who prefers a quick kiss and cuddle and verbal praise, gets equal affection in a way that they are comfortable with.

Eliminate Any Gender Bias

It is not important or relevant whether your child is a boy or a girl. Often we place different expectations on our children based on their gender, that creates inequality, conflict and jealousy.

We expect girls to be helpful around the house, to be softer, fairer, quieter, prettier. We encourage boys to be strong, tough, smart and to suppress their softer emotions.

However, we should not treat our children differently according to their gender. Neither is more or less capable, important or valuable. Children should be allowed to express themselves as they see fit. We should nurture their desires, talents, strengths and abilities equally and stop putting pressure on them based on fabricated and false societal expectations.

The best way to do this is to give them the opposite options.

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Encourage boys to play with dolls and dress ups, to help themselves fulfill their needs and to express their feelings. Girls should be praised for their abilities, intelligence and character, not for their looks or fashion sense. They should be allowed to get dirty, be loud and play with building blocks and cars, and to use their bodies physically by climbing, playing sport and running.

Emphasize Equality During Conflict Resolution

Sometimes it is clear who is right or wrong, but sometimes the issue is blurred. As guardians, we need children to understand that fighting and conflict are inevitable, but there are ways to resolve problems in a fair, respectful and mutually beneficial way.

We need to make children witness distress in others, if they are the cause and to apologize. We also need to teach children how to forgive and forget and to make up. We can encourage them to play together if it is working and to give each other some space when there is tension. We can guide them by being facilitators and also providing an example by how we address conflict resolution within our own relationships.

Nurture Individual Relationships While Upholding the Group Dynamics

Children need to feel like they belong to a family, a tribe, that there is a wholeness to the dynamic of their relationships as siblings, as family, that they are united as a team and have each others’ backs.

At the same time, they need to be encouraged to have one-on-one unique relationships with individuals. It may be that they get along better or have more in common with one sibling over another, but that doesn’t mean that they are any less loyal or affectionate towards the others.

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Treasure the Value of Open Honest Communication

Often conflict, jealousy and resentment escalates unnecessarily when people do not have the tools or desire to express their feelings in a healthy way.

We need to teach children to convey their message clearly and also to interpret the messages of others accurately.

Sometimes feelings get in the way of talking, and there are many other ways to exchange messages in order to resolve conflict. We can help children pay attention to and be aware of each others’ behavior and mood. If someone looks like they want to be left alone, there might be a reason and they may simply need some time and space, or alternatively to be reached out to.

We can reach out to each other in a number of ways without speaking; buying a small gift, sending a card, writing a letter, telling a joke or doing a random act of kindness. We can also guide children to deal with their own feelings of anger, jealousy and resentment.

Sometimes confrontation is unnecessary and developing the emotional maturity to work out your own feelings is something we can encourage in children. Other times these feelings need to be expressed, as confronting as they may be, and children can be taught to not take it personally and allow their siblings to say their piece and accept their feelings. And should the need arise, to simply apologize and move on.

Reference

More by this author

Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Last Updated on February 19, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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