Activities to build self-esteem in kids – Tip 3

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

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Siblings without rivalry!

 Sibling rivalry has always had a bad press – think of Cain slaughtering Abel and Joseph being thrown down the well and sold by his brothers because they were jealous of his beautiful multi coloured coat!

Sibling rivalry can apply to any child living in the same family, from step brothers and sisters to blood related brothers and sisters – and it refers to the jealousy, competition, teasing and fighting that goes on between them – and all the experts seem to agree that it stems from your child’s deep desire and need for your exclusive love – and their need for your attention and their sense of identity, self worth and specialness within your family.

So let’s look at why siblings fight. Siblings fight for a number of reasons:

  • They fight because they want your parental attention, and you naturally only have so much time, attention and patience to give.
  • They fight because they are jealous: “He got a new bike. I didn’t. They must love him more than they love me.”
  • They fight over ordinary teasing which is a way of testing the effects of behaviour and words on another person: “He called me…” “But she called me…first.”
  • They fight because they are growing up in a competitive society that teaches them that to win is to be better: “I saw it first.” “I beat you to the water.”

They are vying for your attention and if they don’t feel valued or feel they are getting equal amounts of your love and approval they will fight for it and as they don’t always know positive ways to get you to notice or respond to them – and any attention is better than none.

Let’s just imagine life from the viewpoint of your child for a few minutes.

I want you to relax and let’s do a little exercise that you may find very interesting. Just put in your own word that fits your circumstances – “husband” or “wife” “partner” or “he” or “she” throughout this exercise.

Just imagine that your partner has come home and puts their arm around you and says “You know I love you so much and I think you’re really wonderful so I’ve decided to add another wife to our lives just like you.”

Write down your reaction:

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When the new “wife” finally arrives you see that she’s younger than you and very cute. When people see you all together out shopping they say hello to you politely but really fuss and pay attention to the new wife saying things like “ohhh isn’t she pretty and soooo adorable – sooo amazing”

Then they turn to you and say “And how do you like your new wife then – isn’t she lovely?”

Write down your reaction:

The new wife needs some new clothes so your husband goes into the cupboard and starts taking out your clothes – all your lovely jumpers and trousers and things you loved to wear and he helpfully points out that now you’re bigger you won’t be wanting them anymore so isn’t it great that you can pass them on to your lovely new wife?

Write down your reaction:

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Every month your new wife is growing quickly and developing in new and different ways to you and one evening while you are struggling with your computer she pops in and says – “Ohh great – this is how you do it – it’s so easy isn’t it – what fun!”

Write down your reaction:

When you feel all indignant and tell her to stop doing things you find annoying or interrupting you, she runs off to your husband crying and complaining about you.

He immediately storms over to you with his arms around her saying “ Honestly I can’t believe you – what do you think you’re doing upsetting her like this – why can’t you just share and take turns – you’re older and supposed to be wiser than her?.”

Write down your reaction

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So what did you discover about yourself from doing that exercise?

The point of this exercise is to change your perspective on being a sibling!

Did you find that your reactions were less than charitable? Perhaps you found yourself being mean, petty, cruel or spiteful or wanting to hit her!

This is just a taster of an older sibling’s reaction to a younger one so let’s look at the reaction a year later when you tell your husband how you feel and he responds with

“That’s ridiculous – you know I love you both the same”

Or

“Why must you be so negative about this all the time – why can’t you just get along together?

Again this could be the way you handle sibling rivalry at the moment and that’s OK because now I’m going to suggest you try something different.

Having a brother or a sister could represent less time with you in the eyes of your child- less attention, less time for talking together, sharing fun together, less time to be heard when they have a worry, less toys, less food, less help with homework, less space – someone who might be better at things than you are – who could shine in things you can’t do, who could excel in areas you can’t, who could be the apple of your parent’s eye because they can do all these amazing things that your parents value and think is great.

It’s about realising that you can make a difference in the lives of your kids by either intensifying competition or by reducing it – you can now accelerate the fighting or make co-operation a way of life in your home.

Like nightmares or sleepwalking, sibling rivalry is one of the inevitable consequences of having children – the clashes, the attention seeking, the digs and jibes, the mini or sometimes major battles that go on at home – where you sometimes feel like a Premiership referee stuck in the middle trying to be fair and trying to get things right is all part of bringing up kids but it’s all about how you perceive your role and what you choose to do about it – it’s about your attitude first and the atmosphere you want to create in your home and the types of relationships you want to develop in your children.

Your attitude and words have power

Building the “WE” mentality of a team

 The “we” rather than “me” mentality is so important in a family. It builds trust, support, loyalty, love and a true foundation for security and self esteem.

I think it’s helpful to have the attitude of being “high on harmony and low on rivalry” and I believe if you have this as your goal – things begin to fall into place.

So just for this week start to notice the ways you talk to your children and how you spend time with them individually. Also notice how to encourage and nurture the “we” spirit of a family team.

If you don’t like what you discover – don’t beat yourself up – just make a commitment to trying some new approaches over the next week and pat your self on the back when you start to notice an all round improvement.

This exercise is in my ‘Parenting Made Easy Book’ buy it here.

Remember you may just create the Brady Bunch after all!

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