Handling Sibling Rivalry

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Dangers of Playing Favorites

When a parent shows special favor to one child over another, sibling rivalries get intensified. Not only is the less-favored child likely to feel anger, envy and hostility towards the more-favored child, the more-favored child is also burdened with a heavy dose of guilt. ("Why am I loved and my sister isn't?") Parents who play favorites increase sibling rivalries.

What To Do:

Try to become more aware of your feelings about your own personality, interests, talents and birth order. For example, if you are a first-born child, you may find that you tend to favor your own first-born child. Or if you're athletic or scientific or musical, you may feel closer to the child who appears to share your skills. Challenge yourself to be fair-minded.

Recognize that each of your children is a unique individual. Instead of comparing one to another, ("Why aren't you more like your brother?") encourage each child's strengths and offer support for each child's weaknesses.

Remember that being fair does not mean that you must treat all of your children the same. Let each child know that your job is to recognize and respond to his particular needs, which may be different from his sister or brother's needs. ("You need to go to sleep earlier than Ben, because you're 2 years younger. When you're 5 years old, your bedtime can be at 8:00 p.m.")

Continued on page 3:  When Siblings Are Close in Age


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