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Sibling Rivalry Never Ends

That screaming fight you just broke up over which kid had the bigger slice of pie won’t be the last. Siblings fight. And if parents don’t handle it right, that rivalry never ceases.

Psychology Today reports that one third of adults report ongoing rivalry and competition with their siblings. What changes are the stakes and tactics. Instead of launching a Worldwide Wrestling Federation style smackdown over the green crayon, grown-up sibling spats tend to play out around issues like marriage, family gatherings, business deals and, of course, who Mom loves best.

Parental intervention in the early years is key, the research suggests, to lifelong peace between siblings.

While it’s hard to imagine siblings without sibling rivalry, the level of it in most American homes is at least in part a product of our culture, the researchers say.Without rituals to celebrate sibling relationships or structures for examining them, these crucial early connections tend to fall by the wayside.

Those little darlings aren’t as innocent as they look. Babies as young as 15 months can tell when a sibling is receiving special treatment. By three, most kids have learned to game the system to their advantage.

The key takeaway from the long Psychology Today article seemed to be that a clear, consistent sense of fairness in the household helps siblings get along. All the kids need to feel loved and treasured, and they need to feel it equally.

The lasting rifts between siblings tend to crop up when one or both parents has emotionally left the building. The lack of trust in their parents produces tension that the siblings take out on each other.

Still, it’s hard for me to imagine peace between my girls.

My kids will fight over anything.

Yesterday, my kids were riding side by side in the backseat of the car when a typical sibling spat broke out. The little one put her finger up her nose and pulled out a booger. The older one grabbed it from her and *boom* they were brawling over who stole whose booger. We’re talking used snot here.

Srsly, girls. Let it go.

Clearly, I have to find a way to deal constructively with these fights, like the mature adult I am. Or else…(cue eerie music)…they’ll keep fighting like this their whole lives.

Photo: Jlachoff

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