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Sibling rivalry and your rights as a parent

Dec 23, 2011, 6 a.m.

Unlike other childhood habits like biting their nails and leaving their vegetables on the dinner plate, sibling rivalry is one habit that kids don't seem to ever grow out of. The insults tend to progress from "I got my training wheels off before you" to "I got married before you" or "I have a higher paying job than you do," and so on. The petty bickering associated with sibling rivalry can be stressful enough on a parent, but what really complicates the situation from this position is the ever popular insult of "Mom/Dad always liked me better than you." Unfortunately, parental favoritism is often at the core of sibling rivalry, which puts the responsibility on you as a parent to eliminate the foundation of sibling rivalry among your children.

This is easier said than done, of course, but there are several important things to remember and steps to take when approaching this sensitive subject.

Leave it to the Professionals

No one knows your family better than you do, but often a tangled situation like sibling rivalry calls for mediation from an expert outsider, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sibling rivalry often stems from deep psychological issues resulting from an experiences that are likely buried in the subconscious and maybe even forgotten all together. By making a commitment with your family to consult a professional on the matter, you can show your devotion to recognizing and resolving the problem in a mature and healthy manner.

Don't Be Secretive

One of the biggest mistakes parents can make when addressing sibling rivalry is playing false favorites in secret. For example, slipping an extra $100 bill into one sibling's hand with the warning "don't tell your sister," while doing the same thing to the other sibling later on. If you bought your daughter and her fiance a honeymoon vacation to Hawaii, don't let her sister find out at the wedding. Instead, tell her yourself and plan a special day for the two of you to make her feel appreciated as well. Be open about your relationship with each sibling to avoid those awkward moments when the truth comes out-- because it always finds a way of coming out in the end.

Speak Positively and Show Support

When the sibling rivalry is between male and female siblings, it's natural for the mother to appear to favor the daughter and vice versa simply because males tend to share more common interest with males and females with females. However, the lack of common interest can occur with any gender, which is why it's important to go out of your way to show positivity and equal support toward each child's interest. Fathers of ballet fanatics should make an effort to attend a performance to show support and mothers of football fans can also so show support by going to games or simply researching to have more fulfilling conversations. Your children should always feel like they can connect with you on some level to strengthen bonds and reduce feelings of rejection and favoritism.

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