Sibling rivalry you can choose your friends but not your family. This unfortunately is a throw away line that is really damaging and leave you short changed in life. Of course you can’t choose your family in the literal sense. Your siblings should be your friends for life. But in the majority of cases you can choose to make them your friends. Even though it can take some effort, it’s well worth it. Any psychologist will tell you that siblings grow up in competition with each other. In particular, they compete for parents attention. And they work hard to make themselves different, so that they’ll attract individual notice. It’s a deep revolutionary drive that we’re unaware of, especially children.
Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, competition and fighting between brothers and sisters. It is a concern for almost all parents of two or more kids. Problems often start right after the birth of the second child. Sibling rivalry usually continues throughout childhood and can be very frustrating and stressful to parents.
In some families if can drive a wedge between brothers and sisters. Which is somewhat unfair, since all that’s happening is that kids too young to know any better are just following their basic instincts. Some parents manage to respond fairly as they can but others struggle to manage the competition, or even seem to encourage the rivalry.
Once we’ve grown up and left home, we need to put all that behind us. Oh, I know that’s harder than it sounds, and we may not always succeed, but we need to keep working at it.
Why? Because our siblings will be with us for longer than anyone else. When our parents are gone, our brothers and sisters will have been around longer than anyone else. They what we’re really like – the bits we’re ashamed of, the bits we’ve hidden from the rest of the world, the bits we’d rather forget. So when we need a friend, they’ll be there, with a stronger bond than anyone else.
I know of two brothers who fought as kids and as adults like most brothers do. They have played together too, of course. But somehow they have carried their childhood squabbles into adulthood, and by their twenties they barely spoke to each other. Then their dad died suddenly, and somehow, as their family came together, the two of them found some support from each other. They became mates on some levels. They have learned what old behaviours they have and to avoid and retrained themselves in some areas of their relationship, and they rediscovered the friendship they had as children.
The reality is you have to work out what childhood patterns your relationship is falling into, and then work to change them of sibling rivalry. One friend of mine was asked – very pleasantly – by her younger brother to stop treating him like a kid. She took this on board, and next time he came to stay she bit her lip a few times. And interestingly enough she noticed that when she stopped bossing him around, he kept asking what to do about this or that – all things most people work out for themselves. So she decided to have a chat with him, and he explained that if she was going to stop bossing him around he would have to stop behaving like a child. He took the point, and she tells me now they have a much better, equal relationship.
So if your sister is trying to steal your friends, or your brother hasn’t stopped competing with you (even if it’s money or job titles these days, instead of sport or school grades), you need to make changes to break the pattern to avoid mental health issues or even for when you have children of sibling rivalry.
Don’t assume it’s all their fault – it’s not. It’s just how families are. But we need to evolve as we get older. Otherwise the next time we really need a friend who understands us, we’ll have deprived ourselves of the best friend of all.
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