Sound familiar? Toddlers or teens, sibling rivalry battles can erupt with little or no warning. Knowing that rivalry is "normal" doesn't help us feel less frustrated. However, understanding the reasons behind rivalry can be helpful in choosing appropriate strategies to deal with or even prevent a battle from turning into a war.
There are three basic reasons siblings feel competitive with each other - 1) need for attention or approval, 2) jealousy, 3) an impression of playing favorites. I'll also add to the list the lack of skills to resolve personal conflicts.
Every child desires to have attention or approval from the adults in their lives. We've all heard "look Mommy," "see what I can do Daddy," or "look what I made Nanny." We want to give them our attention and let them know how wonderful we think they are. If often seems they want our attention just as the phone rings or we are in the middle of making a meal. Striking a balance between attending to the children's needs and having them understand that there are times that they will need to be patient is a challenge. Keep calm, get down on their level to ask them to be patient, be specific about how long it will be and follow through. Most children respond very well to this, especially if you make an effort to praise them for waiting and being patient.
Rivalry between siblings is normal, it's up to us to guide children toward building stronger sibling connections. Developing positive strategies now can mean strong relationships in the future.