Awhile ago a friend related a story that disturbed me a bit. She told me that her children were always competing and that her son asked her which grandchild she thought was smarter. Her response to him: "You've got to be kidding!" At the time I thought it was an appropriate blow-off of a provocative question. But, most likely, underlying that question were feelings that needed to be explored - and it might have presented an opportunity to do just that.
This story was disturbing to me partly because it dredged up some unpleasant memories from my own childhood. The perpetrators of my negative experiences were my mother's three siblings (my three aunts) who were hell bent on comparing their children. It so disturbed me that to this day I have had very little communication with my cousins - except for the weddings that I attended at my mother's behest. These were instructive events which served to confirm the enduring legacy of jealousy and competition in my mother's family, and made it certain that my own children would not be exposed to its poison.
As parents of a son and a daughter, we are hopeful that our closeness as a family is an indicator that we didn't do such a bad job in the distribution of love and affection. But it is still true that, of necessity, firstborns are dethroned and children of different sexes and/or temperaments may require different responses. I don't know if there has ever been a study to determine which child in the birth order is more upset, but I venture to say it's the one whose crown has been confiscated. In essence, I don't think sibling rivalry is unusual or abnormal or even an indication that a parent or sibling has contributed to it; but a provocative question, like the one my friend's son asked, can be a wake-up call for an honest conversation if the parties are willing. And, "You've got to be kidding!" should be a starting point.
Question: How do you handle sibling rivalry?
More from parenting