Let's face it: the world is full of unhealthy competition and rivalry. And these are among the root causes that are fueling discord and animosity among people at different levels (of social life) and in various spheres. So should we not encourage cooperation instead of competition? Should we not reiterate the perhaps forgotten (or often overlooked fact) that each individual is unique and endowed with a set of signature strengths and vulnerabilities?
We definitely should and like charity begins at home these realizations too need to be reiterated and nurtured at home starting with our own children. "In my years of clinical practice I have often experienced that adults who are driven and blinded by unhealthy competition with their peers and colleagues also demonstrate rivalry with their own siblings," says Raina Bhattacharya, a clinical counselor based in Guwahati.
Sibling rivalry as we all know often stems from jealousy and insecurity. "When one child continuously feels that the other/or others are getting more love and attention from the parents, sibling rivalry often rears its ugly head. Left unaddressed this actually very complex emotion can lead to low self esteem, a general sense of mistrust and even personality disorders," says Bhattacharya.
Talking about how not to trigger any sibling rivalry among two or more offsprings, Bhattacharya advises, "It is not just enough to understand, appreciate and accept the inherent personality differences between your children. It is also not enough to secure them with the same level of opportunities in growth. It is also equally important that as a parent you are emotionally available equally for both or all your children."
Sibling rivalry as we all know often stems from jealousy and insecurityExplaining her last point she says, "Often one or both parents ends up spending more time with one child. This could be for various reasons. For instance sometimes this happens because he/she might have special needs. At other times it might be because he/she requires greater parental guidance and attention because he/she is preparing for an important exam or event. But whatever be the reasons, lopsided attention from parents invariably embitters (maybe subconsciously) impressionable young minds."
Highlighting another pertinent yet relatively less known aspect of sibling rivalry, Bhattacharya continues, "Sometimes one child has emotional/mental issues for instance he/she is prone to rage or maybe is generally more sensitive than the other/others. In many such cases I have seen that while one or both parents demonstrates adequate patience and acceptance of the vulnerable/conflicted child's condition they end up having more expectations (of maturity and balance) in the other child/children. Consequently their level of patience with the other child's failings and shortcomings is not adequate or justified. This is a huge problem that can escalate to major discord in the family and translate into sibling animosity and rivalry."
Hence needless to say Bhattacharya cautions parents against these profound and drastic mistakes. However, she concludes that a small measure of sibling rivalry is inevitable especially in the growing up years. "However, it should be effectively mitigated so that it does not leave permanent scars in adult life. Getting your children to resolve their fights and differences through conversation and cooperation is an elementary yet great way. Therefore conversation and expression of thoughts and emotions among children should always be encouraged."
Getting children to participate in activities where both/or each can contribute in terms of their unique skill sets is also a wonderful way of building the spirit of cooperation and oneness. "For instance, if as a parent you are planning to invite guests for a party you can delegate tasks to your children in accordance with their organisation abilities. While the one who is fond of cooking can make a few dishes the other who has a sharper aesthetic sense can be in charge of giving your place a small makeover," opines Bhattacharya.