What causes some siblings to form a competitive relationship with each other, when others get along just fine? Many parenting experts believe that siblings born close in age are more likely to compete with each other, and from my personal experience, I believe this may be part of the answer.
I was born the second oldest of five children. My oldest brother and I are 14 months apart. Between my sister and I there is a 2-year age difference. My sister and I have always gotten along, but the relationship between my brother and I is definitely strained. I cannot recall when it began, but my parents say it was the day they brought me home!
My brother, who was used to being the center of attention, was obviously frustrated with the attention others were giving to the new baby. I also had a bit of colic, which caused my mother to spend hours rocking me to sleep – a daily practice I am sure he noticed. From then on all bets were off. As a young child I can remember tattling on him on a very frequent basis. His strategy was to make fun of me or exclude me whenever he could.
My parents saw the relationship between my brother and I as frustrating, but typical. Some siblings just don’t get along. I can recall my father saying to my brother, “You should be nicer to your sister because some day you will need her.”
If your children seem to be competing with each other, I’d encourage you to address the conflict. Do not ignore it because this rivalry can be painful for children. I suggest you make sure each child has a chance to “shine” – to establish him or herself as successful. Provide opportunities for each child to excel while also fostering teamwork. Children who feel competent because of their own strengths will be less competitive with others and better able to maximize the strengths of others.
My relationship with my brother remained one of conflict, at least when we were children. We argued frequently and I think we eventually decided that we were not going to get along. And it hurt. Feeling “disliked” by a sibling is quite painful. Fortunately over the past 15 years, my brother and I have grown very close. The pain I felt in the relationship is gone and my brother is someone in my life I know I can count on. This causes me to wonder all the more – why did we have such a rivalry? Was it simply the closeness of our age? I don’t think so. I think it also has to do with who we are.
My brother and I have strong personalities. We are both passionate individuals with a strong set of values. We tend to speak our minds and openly share our feelings. We both have a desire to excel. It only makes sense that we were often in competition with each other. What eventually changed for us was that we figured out that we are even stronger together.