Jealousy between siblings

All parents have shouted at some point: “Don’t be like this! You are siblings!and we have all often heard the words “Muuuum! He hit me!”. Sure – if not since the dawn of time but definitely very soon afterwards – these words have been repeated millions of times around the world! In other words, all siblings have quarrelled at some point in their life, all have felt jealous at some point… The extent of this jealousy and the way in which it is expressed, however, differ in each family and that determines the relationships of children throughout the rest of their lives.

Most parents, therefore, make daily efforts for our children to have better relations and avoid quarrelling. We think, however, that by intervening and seeking to find out what happened and who started the fight we will help our children solve their differences!

Reality however proves otherwise…. If this were true, all siblings would have stopped squabbling … So what can we actually do?

The main thing we can offer our children in this area is to pick a quiet moment to teach them conflict resolution strategies, which they will find valuable throughout their lives, following some “steps”:

  • We remain calm.
  • We explain that it is normal to get angry at some point with our siblings and that it happens to everyone.
  • That we understand how they feel towards each other at a given time and we help them identify their feelings toward their siblings.
  • That hitting is not a solution when we get angry with our siblings but that we can express our anger in other ways.
  • That, when we are angry, we need to tell the other person and explain to them what we do not like about their behaviour.
  • Then, we help them express these things to each other, even if we have to tell them first time round so that they can listen to us. We can make a list – accepted by all members of the family – of what we say and do when we get angry.
  • We establish a rule together that anger is allowed, but not hitting.
  • If we see them hitting each other again, we remind them of the new rule and, without asking who is to blame, we guide them to express their anger differently.
  • We are steadfast about the new rule and always emphasize in a calm and explanatory way that we do not allow hitting. At the same time, we split them apart when they misbehave, without getting angry and making them feel guilty.
  • We always identify, highlight and reward even the most subtle move of a child that helps it play and solve its differences without hitting and intense fights.
  • We talk together and emphasize what is gained by solving our differences without hitting.
  • We do not forget that we cannot avoid disagreements between siblings, they will never end!

What we want to achieve is for them not to express their anger or jealousy by hitting and to communicate better.

Our goal is never to find and punish the culprit in every fight but to teach them skills and healthy ways of communicating, expressing and controlling their emotions and especially anger, skills that will prove valuable throughout the lifetime of our children. At the same time, by not focusing on the culprit and the punishment, we create stronger ties between siblings, making them feel like ‘allies’, which will be valuable in the rest of their lives.