Siblings are privileged to have a common heritage of parenthood, live together as children and be exposed to the same family, cultural and religious values and orientation. It is therefore absurd when they develop into enemies who utilise every opportunity to nurse ill feelings, backbite, and work against each others’ purpose.
It is note-worthy that incidences of sibling rivalry are usually preceded by negative emotions and feelings of being less loved and preferred as a result of endowments, position, achievements and other factors. I have heard such statements as ‘My brother is always right while I am always wrong’, ‘Of course, my mother loves him more than any one of us in the family’, and ‘My father loves her more because she is the only girl among us’. Such perceptions of unfairness are capable of producing very regrettable results.
Our environment is replete with the evil occurrences of sibling rivalry. It is a major cause of physical and emotional abuse of children at home. It frustrates overall family goals and achievements. Unbelievable stories have been told over and again of how people connived to sell their brothers and sisters to slave dealers during the era of slave trade. The bizarre developments where siblings take each other through judicial processes and vendetta in their bid to manage or share the properties of a parent who died without a will are evidences of how ugly sibling rivalry could get.
The evil outcomes of sibling rivalry also manifested in the bible. Sibling jealousy almost led to the murder of Joseph. He was eventually sold to slave dealers by his eleven brothers. Esau and Jacob, who were twins, ended up in strife and were estranged. In the case of Cain and Abel, sibling rivalry resulted in murder! There is really no limit to the evil consequences of untamed negative emotions.
Parents’ Role in Minimising Sibling Rivalry
- Parental love should flow and be seen to flow endlessly, unconditionally and equally among all the children in the family.
Children do not have to merit their parents’ love! Family resources should be equally applied in providing for the needs of all the children in the family.
Parents are bound to love their children in any case. In doing this, parents should remember God, and how He causes the rain to fall for everyone and the sun to shine on everyone, not minding how good or bad each person is. Parental love, when properly applied and sustained, even in the face of challenges in the course of child training, does not only prevent sibling rivalry, but assists greatly in recovering children when they derail into unrighteousness.
- Parents should acknowledge and respect the unique personality of each child.
Children are uniquely created with different talents and personality dispositions. For instance, they may be short or tall, dark or fair, fat or slim, fast or tardy, introverted or extroverted, timid or bold. Every child is uniquely endowed with resources to address unique needs of the nuclear family and the society at large. Parents should therefore recognise that children are respectively called to different professions and service to mankind.
- Comparing the endowments of children by parents is both unnecessary and ineffective in achieving parenting targets.
It usually excites wrong emotions and actions among siblings, especially when they are made in the process of correcting a wrong behaviour.
Parents should rather make efforts to ensure that each child’s unique personality endowments are positively communicated to his or her siblings in such a way that none would feel that the other is preferred.
If everything was right, Cain and Abel in the bible would have been raised so that they would each feel fulfilled in their respective careers, love each other and offer worthy appreciation to God. Cain would not have felt the way he did. He would have simply taken correction.
- Application of good correction skills:
When a child continues to err on a particular issue, parents should first meditate deeply and consider comprehensively all factors at play in the child’s situation that could have contributed to the child’s behaviour. Parents should always remember to prayerfully get closer, talk more and listen more to the child before deciding of the best approach to correcting him or her.
In correcting children, parents should communicate love, logical reasoning, fear of God and the avoidable negative consequences of wrong actions.
It really takes the redeeming power of God to deal effectively with the depravity of man. (Romans 7:24). My personal experiences have proved the efficacy of God’s word and prayer in the correction of wrong behaviour in children.
Parents should not be too hasty in expecting result when correcting a child. A skilled parent should follow up closely on the child, rewarding every little improvement with love, hope and faith.
- Avoidance of pollutants to the right atmosphere of discipline:
Efforts at correcting children would not yield the desired result and would excite sibling jealousy if children who manifest wrong behaviours are condemned, hated, resented, called names, debased, compared with their siblings and told they would never get anything right. These and other wrong and ineffective approaches parents apply in correcting children were discussed in our post of 7th January, 2016 in the Reflections category titled ‘Pollutants to the Right Atmosphere of Discipline’. They should all be avoided.
Passionate parents raise siblings who respect, appreciate and support each other in love.
-Uchenna N. Nduka