Dealing with Fighting and Jealousy in Sibling Rivalry

Sisters and brothers are supposed to love each other, right? So what's up with all the constant fighting? Sibling rivalry happens when one or both of the kids is jealous of the other. You want what the other has. It could be a particular talent, physical attractiveness, book smarts, or new clothes or gadgets. Whatever "it" is, you're infuriated with your sibling for having it, and angry that you don't have it. That's a lot of anger to hold in, and it comes out by fighting.

Are you ready to stop the hitting, yelling, screaming, crying, and silent treatments? First, you have to figure out what you and your siblings are really competing for, and that's the love of your parents.

Parents show love in two ways: attention and approval. Attention is how much time (and its quality) they spend with you. Approval is shown in verbal praise, presents, or special privileges.

Here's the secret: You and your siblings are individual people, each with quirks, talents, and habits of your own. You might shine in math and science, while your sister has a flair for acting. Just as you and your siblings are individuals, understand that your parents will express attention and approval in individual ways, as well.

For example, your parents might show approval by giving you a new iPod for winning a math competition. They also be spending a lot of time (and sharing some laughs) with your sister while they help her rehearse for the school play. Sis will think "Where's my iPod?!" while you think "How come she always gets the attention?" The situation could easily be reversed, where you get the attention, while she gets the approval. Your parents are tailoring their attention and approval based on your individual styles and needs. It doesn't mean they love either one of you more or less. They're just expressing it differently.

So how do you deal with sibling rivalry? Here's how:

  • Respect your own talents and individuality. Being jealous of your sibling doesn't get you anywhere, so focus on developing your own skills.

  • Express your feelings in a healthy way. Talk it out with your guidance counselor or a trusted teacher. They can show you ways to cope with your feelings and to develop your self-esteem. You can also write in a journal — it's a great way to let it all out.

  • Make your parents aware. If you feel your parents are treating you and your siblings unfairly by keeping an imaginary scorecard on who's the "best," talk to them about it. They may not even realize they're doing it!