Treatment planning and action steps against sibling rivalry
As Christians, we are told that we have “brotherly love” for one another. This brotherly love is understood as the closest version of platonic love. In the Gospels, Jesus instructs the disciples to “love one another as brothers.” However, many brothers in the Bible did not treat each other with love. Consider the following:
Cain and Abel
Esau and Jacob
Rachel and Leah
Joseph and his older brothers
Moses and his stepbrothers
With all the examples, there is no doubt that acting with brotherly love is a difficult challenge for anyone. Instruct the parents of rival children to continue to instill in them a sense of love that is not limited, that does not diminish according to the number of children there are. And instruct parents to be patient, sometimes feelings of jealousy and competition go away on their own over time.
Here are some things you can suggest to parents to help decrease or eliminate sibling rivalry.
Don’t show favoritism.
Ask any son or daughter what their family’s favorite child is and you will get an answer. Sibling favoritism offends and infects a child’s heart and leads to feelings of inferiority, anger, resentment, and even bitterness. The biblical story of Esau and Jacob is an excellent example of how favoritism harms a family. We learn from the book of Genesis (25:28) that the children’s father, Isaac, preferred Esau while the mother favored Jacob. This led to deception among the parents as Jacob stole Esau’s birthright and blessing.
Do not compare
Most siblings are already very sensitive to the competitive aspects of their relationships with brothers and sisters. Rather than wondering how good I am at this, they ask themselves: Am I better than my brother / sister at this? Therefore, it is better for parents to avoid directly comparing their children to each other. Instruct parents to comment on the gifts and uniqueness of their children, apart from their siblings. For example, while it is good to say, Jane is excellent at soccer and David is a genius at the piano. it’s not good to say that Jane is better than David at soccer, and David kicks Jane but at music.
Counteract feelings of jealousy: Jealousy is often at the core of sibling rivalry. If an older sibling is jealous of a younger sibling, have the parent try the following techniques:
1. Help the child to verbalize his feelings.
When children are able to verbalize their feelings, they are much better equipped to (a) understand and (b) deal with them. However, verbalizing feelings is not an easy process for children. For example, can you imagine a child saying? Mom, Dad, I’ve been feeling a bit neglected and insecure since my little brother arrived and I really could use a little more attention. Specifically, I would like us to spend more time playing together like we used to. YEAH RIGHT! Children are much more likely to express their frustrations. Only through practice and training can a child learn to verbally describe their emotions and needs.
2. Pay attention to the good and the good, ignore the bad.
Children want attention, and although it seems the other way around, bad attention is better than no attention. Therefore, a good way for parents to improve a child’s behavior is to pay attention to the good and correct behaviors and ignore the bad ones.
For example, if your child is good while putting on his shoes, say: Thank you, honey. I am so proud of how well you are acting silently putting on your shoes when asked. If your child misbehaves when making a fuss, ignore the behavior, pay no more attention to it.
3. Show the child the privileges of age.
All adults recognize that age has its privileges, but children do not always see it that way, especially when there is a baby receiving a lot of attention. A good technique to suggest to parents is to point out all age privileges to older siblings. What do they get because they are older? If they are not getting many, give them some! Also, a great privilege of being a big brother is being able to hug and care for a baby who will always look up to his older brother or sister.
A telephone counselor will likely provide you with more details.