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THE ROOT OF SIBLING RIVALRY

By: Tammy Sassoon



There are two aspects of sibling rivalry that should be addressed. The first is the root of the problem, and the second is the method of dealing with it. In this month’s article, we’ll uncover the source and next month we’ll focuson solutions.

A lthough people prefer to be given quick strategies for their difficulties, we need to go slower with this. It’s important to get a clear understanding of why the rivalry is happening before it can be dealt with. Imagine a farmer who spends most of his day pulling weeds. We’d consider him foolish, wouldn’t we? After all, he needs to spend his days nurturing his garden if he wants to be successful. He also needs to understand why there are so many weeds cropping up to begin with. In the same vein, it would be foolish for parents to spend most of their day “pulling weeds” (dealing with behavioral difficulties), while not understanding why they’ve started in the first place. How much more fruitful would it be if they took a step back first, evaluated the situation and then spent time “growing” their children based on new knowledge?

Is there a certain type of environment that would produce less weeds? Is there a certain type of environment we can create to foster more love between siblings? There is and it’s enacted when this crucial factor is taken into consideration: The cause of sibling rivalry is jealousy. Jealousy is the feeling of “I want what he has.” Another variation could be “I’m in danger of losingwhat’s mine.” A child who is jealous of another child’s things either wants what the other child has or feels that he is in danger of losing his own belongings – whether they be toys, clothing or time with Mommy.

What is jealousy and where does it come from? Jealousy results from a lack of gratitude. If we felt perfectly secure with everything we had, we wouldn’t feel the need to have what someone else has. We wouldn’t feel jealous of him either.

So how do we plant this “garden”of gratitude? How do we raise children who truly feel grateful for what they have, so that they don’t feel jealous of their siblings? We teach our children to give thanks for everything.

This tactic sounds simple, yet is not perpetuated in so many homes!So many children just expect to be served. Children must understand that everything they have is due to Hashem’s lovingkindness and is certainly not a guarantee. If children believe “This belongs to me” or “I have this is coming to me,” they will end up with a sense of entitlement and become jealous of their siblings.

Teaching our children to be thankful makes them humble, happy with what they have, and much less jealous of others.

Now, we all know that whatever we want our children to be, we need to be.Our job is not to preach gratitude; it is to model being grateful for what we have. Our kids need to hear us talk often about how lucky we are, and hear us give thanks to people who do us a service. This small but far-reaching habit is so easy to put intopractice! We can thank the mailman with a smile or thank our children’s teachers for the investment they put into them on a daily basis.

 A few weeks ago, while in the park, a child who’d just gotten a bike for his birthday caught my eye. He couldn’t rideit very well; there seemed to be a problem with the brakes. Frustrated, he went over to his mother and said, “I don’t like this bike! I want a bike like that,” and he pointed to a different child’s bike nearby. Unfazed, the mother said to the her son, “Just be grateful. You just got a new bike for your birthday. If you need it be fixed, that’s fine, but be thankful!”

No more than two minutes later, this same mother was complaining about the weather. “I hate when it gets cold and windy and we have to go back inside,” she said. The message that she was sending her child with these contradictory sentiments was, “You have to be happy with the bike that’s not working for you, but I don’t have to be happy with the weather that’s not working for me.” Children cantell if we actually feel grateful ourselves. A genuinely grateful attitude towards life is one of the biggest gifts we can give to our children. We need to do less talking and more modeling. Children copy what they see!

Now that you understand the root of sibling rivalry – jealousy – stay tuned for next month’s issue to learn more about what you can do to help your children overcome it.