“As children, my sister and I were so jealous of each other,” said Claire, as we sipped our lattes. “I thought my sister was so much more beautiful than me.”

I raised my eyebrow. In my mind how could my friend not have seen her beauty. Claire has a fair complexion, smooth blond hair and neat features, and she has a radiance that makes me smile just thinking about her.

“My sister had dark curly hair, dark, dark eyes. I thought I looked insipid compared to her. I was so envious of her looks. We fought most of our childhood,” she sighed. “Imagine – all those years we could have had a great sibling relationship. It was only when we got to be adults that we talked it through and discovered we were both envious of each other’s looks.”

So many parents despair because of their children’s constant bickering and fighting. Perhaps you are a parent in that situation too, concerned about the sibling rivalry in your home – perhaps you are wondering how to respond to sibling jealousy.

Three Key Aspects to Counteract Sibling Jealousy

1. Create Opportunity to Listen to How Your Children Are Feeling

To stop the fighting we need to think about what might going on underneath the surface that is causing the turmoil. Like adults, children are influenced by the thoughts they dwell on. They are not likely to respond in a kind, compassionate manner when they are thinking:

“She’s prettier than me.”

“He’s better at sport than me.”

“She’s cleverer than me.”

“Mum and Dad love her more than me.”

“Just because she’s the baby, they let her get away with it.”

Very often when anger surfaces there are feelings of fear or disappointment underneath the blanket of the aggressive behaviour. These emotions are fueled by envious, or jealous thoughts. Until we acknowledge and respond to our children’s feelings and thoughts, we are likely to find ourselves dealing with the fallout of sibling rivalry. The thing is, jealous thoughts are like woodborers – if they are ignored, they slowly erode the fabric of the relationship.

“Jealousy and envy distort the truth of what is essential for satisfaction or genuine happiness in life.”

Sibling Envy

This quote is from Normile and Alley’s book “Overcoming Envy and Jealousy Therapy” 

When sibling rivalry erupts your children need you to help them to restore equilibrium. Focus on creating a safe space where your children can process what’s going on for them. To quote Dr Dan Siegel: “Connection calms.”

2. Help your children to think about what their envy might be telling them

Children often feel frustrated, irritable or fearful because they imagine they are at a disadvantage to the other.

Think about the expression we hear kids use – “I’ll get even!”

This statement says so much  – when there is sibling rivalry at least one child is not feeling equal to the other.

Perhaps your child’s envy is tied in more with admiration of his sibling than a feeling of resentment.

We can’t stop the envy, but imagine if we could help our children to take ownership of their envy and to turn this around to be a helpful tool. Have you come across the term “frenvy”? It’s a term to describe “friend envy” – that sometimes we envy the character traits or achievements of the very ones we like. When we listen supportively we can help our children figure out what their envy is really about, and it can spur them on: “If she can do it I can too!” We can help them turn the green-eyed monster into a helpful ally – to be the best they can be.

3. Build your children’s self esteem

When there is strong sibling rivalry it is often connected to low self esteem. A key aspect to easing sibling rivalry is to build your children’s self esteem.

“Jealousy and emptiness are related, not twins, but born of the same emptiness within you.” Normile and Alley

To discover practical ways to boost children’s self esteem see 7 Useful Tips On How to Build Self Esteem In Your Child.

Bringing positive change to levels of self esteem and softening the intensity of sibling rivalry is a long steady haul to healthier, happier relationships. And, as parents, our consistency counts.

"creation calms." Dr Dan Siegel

Photos Acknowledgement: © Redbaron | Dreamstime.com

What are your thoughts? If you have any questions or comments about sibling envy please post them below.

 

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Last edited August 04th 2017

Join Parenting Expert Val Mullally in Moville this weekend.

Fri 4 Nov 7:30 – 9 pm  ‘Meeting Your Child’s Deepest Emotional Needs’

Sat 5 Nov ‘Responding to Children’s Challenging Behaviour’ 

Moville Methodist Hall 

Open to all parents of children aged 3 to 12 years

(grandparents and other child-carers also welcome)

 

 

 

 

Last edited November 01st 2016

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Last edited October 28th 2016

What I wish I'd known when my kids were youngImagine – significantly lowering the stress level in your home, and racheting up the Happiness factor.
When things aren’t going smoothly that can seem like an impossible dream. Here’s my own story of how my vision of parenting fell apart and what happened next.

It took a near melt-down in my relationship with my then-teenage son for me to realize that being a ‘good parent’ wasn’t working. I was a qualified, experienced teacher. I thought I knew how to handle kids but my relationship with my then-teenage son was as scratchy as wire-wool on sunburnt skin. I kept trying to make him ‘be good’ but the more I insisted, the more he resisted.
I thought my parenting job was to change him, but he was a ‘stubborn child’.
But crisis forced me to think differently and do differently.
His challenging behaviour was clearly telling me my parenting style wasn’t working.
I began to realise – slowly! – that the only person I could change was myself!
But I felt overwhelmed.
How could I be anything other than what I was?
How could I do the work of being the parent my child needed to be (instead of the parent who tried to control)?
It seemed an impossible task.

Let me tell you my ‘AHA’ moment.
At that time (this is quite a few years ago!) they had discovered the wreck of the Titanic. I was listening to a radio interview where they said that if the Titanic had changed her course, just two or three degrees when she first hit chilly waters, she would have sailed safely into harbour.
Two or three degrees!
That would have felt like nothing on such a huge ship – but it would have made all the difference.
The lights went on for me.
I was doing a pretty good job as a parent. I just needed to make that 2 or 3 degree shift that would sail us back to warm waters.

It took me time. It took all of us patience. It wasn’t always easy. But we got there.
I didn’t know the term ‘Mindful Parent’ then, but I was taking the first steps on that journey.

The good news is that, to be the parent you’d love to be, it doesn’t take a 180 degree turn-around.
It’s the small shifts in the everyday interactions that are key.
And I’d love to share with you the key insights and practical tools I’ve discovered. The 2 or 3 degrees that can make all the difference in your relationships.

Why not grab a mug of coffee and take twelve minutes to watch this little video.

It’s a section from my ‘BEHAVE’  Online Parenting Course. I wish I’d known this when my kids were young.

My family experienced a lot of frustration and heartache while I slowly realised that trying to get my kid to behave wasn’t working. I’d love to save you the tears and the frustration that it cost me – not to mention any yelling, grumbling or nagging!

What I wish I'd known when my kids were young My AHA moment was many years ago. I’ve got a great relationship with my son, who now has children of his own – and I’ve made it my life’s work to discover what’s needed to create happier homes.  My crisis became my opportunity.

It took me years to figure out what it TAKES to create a happy family.

That’s why I developed the ‘BEHAVE’ Online Parenting Course to give you the key insights and the practical tools I’ve discovered to create a more enjoyable and fulfilling family life, without having to endure the long and often painful journey I experienced. If I’d learnt these core principles when my kids were young, family life would have been so much easier, and happier, for us all.

I’m not saying you’ll have a ‘perfect’ family – life isn’t perfect, but it’s meant to be fun.

I’d love to hear YOUR questions and comments: what’s the parenting challenge you’re facing?

 

Last edited August 20th 2016