Post No.: 0412
Siblings frequently squabble with each other, particularly when young, and this is totally normal! Sisters and brothers who are within a couple of years apart in age, and who share the same gender (especially boys and boys), tend to exhibit the most rivalry; although twins are less likely to experience it. Through this process, they are learning conflict resolution skills that’ll help serve them later in life.
They’ll also be learning from how their parents react to and handle these fuzzy sibling conflicts – for example, how a parent seeks for fair resolutions through discussions so that the children come to, or come to accept, a solution themselves, or through simply dictating who should get what, which can lead to one child or the other thinking there is favouritism.
Siblings actually typically fight less with each other when their parents aren’t around. So don’t always intervene – tell your children to wait or to resolve a petty dispute by themselves because most of the time they will be able to do so peacefully.
Don’t forcefully insist that siblings forgive each other and accept apologies – acknowledge the hurt of the hurt sibling, and ask her/him to forgive the offending sibling once she/he is ready to. Merely going through the motions of the offending sibling saying, “Sorry” and the offended sibling saying that they accept the apology but possibly not really meaning it, won’t teach them the true meaning of forgiveness (so this is one area where ‘fake it to make it’ doesn’t apply or work). But do let them know that forgiveness isn’t saying that the wrongdoing was fine or excusable, and that justice may still be necessary. Alternatively, if the problem resolves itself then overt forgiveness is not necessary – overt forgiveness only matters if the hurt isn’t going away.
Forgiveness can be demonstrated through a kind word or action, such as a welcoming smile or an offer to play. Remind them of the previous times they forgave each other and it worked. And, as usual, lead by example – don’t bring up old incidents because this demonstrates resentment and an inability to forgive, and ask for forgiveness from your children if you did/said something wrong to them. Contrary to reinforcing a ‘respect for one’s elders’, it would reduce the respect for one’s elders if parents cannot admit to their own mistakes to whom it may concern. Point out examples of forgiveness in books and on screen. And be patient – people are more willing to forgive as they grow older.
We tend to see that parents of single children believe that nurture primarily explains their child’s disposition, while parents of multiple children tend to believe that nature primarily explains their children’s dispositions if their children’s dispositions are very different despite the assumption that they each received the exact same parental styles. This is because one thing may appear to work for one child yet not for another.
It’s hard to say whether siblings raised in the same household by the same parents will receive exactly the same treatments and upbringing environments though because the fact of sharing an environment with another younger/older sister(s)/brother(s) could shape the children’s differences, or the parenting style could be different for subsequent children because of the greater experience and less stress after the initial unknowns of how to raise the first child, or because of the parents’ time being divided between multiple children for subsequent children when the first child received their undivided attention at the equivalent early age, for example. These could contribute to their differences? So, for instance, two non-twin sisters living together won’t be experiencing the exact same environments as each other because one will be living with a younger sister and the other will be living with an older sister. Whatever the case, differences between siblings will be down to an extremely complex interaction between them having different genes (if non-identical twins) and experiencing different environmental factors (even potentially if only subtly different).
An eldest child might find it a shock to suddenly have her/his parents’ attention being divided between her/him and a new younger sister or brother in the family, when she/he had previously only ever known and had been used to having all of their fluffy attention for her/himself.
But the younger the sibling in the family, the likely progressively less parental attention she/he will receive overall by the time they all each individually reach, say, age 16 – for the younger a sibling is, the more other siblings she/he will have that’ll each take a proportion of their parents’ daily attention; although progressively older siblings are usually utilised to help look after younger siblings to make up for this. In some cultures, the first son is heavily favoured. And we must be aware of ‘logic’ like ‘she/he is the eldest so she/he should get the bigger room’ because she/he will always be the eldest no matter how many years pass, meaning that younger siblings will never get a chance of receiving the same treatment, whether good or bad (such as more trust but increased responsibilities bestowed upon the eldest siblings, which might explain why eldest siblings are more likely to enter leadership positions when older), whatever age they reach. Hand-me-down clothing and toys only go one way too, which will either mean the youngest will receive items only at their worst condition, or the youngest will receive more overall for receiving the old as well as lots of new stuff.
Siblings learn lots of social skills that are important for later life – from copying each other and by being with each other. They can learn empathy, nurturing, protection, responsibility, patience, compromise, negotiation and cooperation. They can more quickly learn whom they want to be like and whom they don’t want to be like than those without siblings.
Gender loyalty can eclipse sibling loyalty after around age 5 when children are in school, but sibling relationships tend to be the most enduring relationships anyone ever has in their lives. So despite all the arguments and disagreements that inevitably arise between them – most of us who have them wouldn’t trade our sisters or brothers for the world!