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Community Commentary: Softening up that sibling rivalry

December 07, 2011|By Adam Grindlinger

Sibling rivalry has been an issue as long as families have existed. In fact, it's a bummer that whenever the word "sibling" comes up, the word "rivalry" is almost sure to follow. Does this mean that solid sibling relationships (i.e. brothers and sisters who are not always in competition and actually like and enjoy one another) in families are few and far between? I doubt it. It just seems that the rivalry gets all the negative attention…think Cinderella and countless other stories we've grown up with.

Have we ever really thought about what causes sibling rivalry? There can be natural causes of rivalry such as different ages, temperament, different sex and physical appearances. There can also be environmental factors that cause sibling rivalry. Teachers, parents, grandparents, coaches, etc. all can influence the children's behavior.

Now that we've identified some causes of sibling rivalry, let's explore the pros and cons. Can some sibling rivalry actually be positive? Absolutely. Rivalry stems from competition. Some competition can be healthy, a pro. Competition fosters drive, desire, persistence and acceptance, all positive traits. I have three boys. It is a fact that they do compete. They compete in school, on the soccer field, swimming, playing the Wii, with their friends, etc. The list goes on and on.

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The competition naturally encourages the siblings to try harder. They possess a resilience that I believe is a result of this healthy competition. They see one brother reading, they want to learn to read. They see one brother riding a scooter, they want to ride a scooter. The younger sibling tries extra hard to always keep up with the older sibling. The older sibling always strives to be one step ahead of the younger siblings. This competition and yearning to keep up with one another can be used to develop healthy bonds among siblings.

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