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Sibling Rivalry

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Rivalry between children has been around since Cain killed his brother Abel (see Genesis 4). Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, describes sibling rivalry as “the most irritating feature of childrearing.” Continuing, he writes, “The underlying source of this conflict is old-fashioned jealousy and competition between children” ( The New Strong-Willed Child , 2004, p. 139).

To minimize the conflict, he makes three recommendations for parents:

1. Don’t inflame the natural jealousy of children by making continual comments that describe one child as superior to another. Beauty, intelligence, and physical abilities such as athleticism are especially sensitive topics.

2. Establish a workable system of justice at home. Children need to know that they can count on their parents to demand and enforce rules of the home for all children.

3. Recognize that the hidden ‘target’ of sibling rivalry is you. Conflict is often a method of manipulating parents and a way to get their attention” (ibid., pp. 142-147, emphasis added).