Overcoming Sibling Rivalry

Before I split up from my husband, my boys almost hated each other!  They couldn’t be left in the same room together without either verbally abusing each other or launching at each other across the room in a testosterone frenzy with a speed that would have impressed even the fastest cheetah or the fiercest beast around!  They tore strips off each other at fifty paces and the war wounds were only matched by those that they might have inflicted on another should they have been involved in real armed combat!  They were brutal, uncivilized and to be honest brotherly love was a metaphor which could not be assigned to either of them.  Their way of being was not pretty or something that I was remotely proud of even though they were both my boys and most days I pulled my hair out wondering where it had all gone wrong!  At the time they were 11 and 12 years old, but really from the day the younger one was born it wasn’t much different.  This was sibling rivalry at its worse!

Being just 16 months apart I used to put it down to the small age gap.  I then rationalized that maybe it didn’t help that they were sandwiched between an older sister and a younger brother with all four children squeezed into a small five year gap, but there again I looked around and saw that most of my friends were experiencing similar problems with their children and to be honest some of them still are!  The only thing is that as these two arch enemies that I described above hit 11 and 12, my marriage to their father hit the rocks and with it a monumental shift occurred that changed the course of their relationship!

The divorce was terrible!  The boys refused to see their father and due to health constraints, we were forced to move out of the marital home (which was stuck in the middle of a field) and move to a nearby town but suddenly the arguments subsided and the boys started to draw on each other’s strengths.  Now I was too ill to do much for them and certainly too poorly to take on board any constant bickering, but more importantly, they started to respect each other and recognize the latent talents that lay within each one of them.  The older boy was good with computers and he set up the home network, mended the computers and sorted out the broadband connection in the house.  The middle boy was a fantastic cook – he was able to throw a tasty meal together with little effort that the others would relish with much gratitude and the others had their own strengths which they played to as well.  Each child respected the strengths of the other and each praised the others for input that part that each person played in making our new house a functioning home.  The sibling rivalry ceased and the Team DJ was born.  It was an enviable team and an attractive force.

And so what in essence were the lessons that I learnt from this?  Clearly the most salient was that team work was the way forward with these boys.  The other was that sibling rivalry can be overcome but it takes work and moreover it takes respect.  When we teach our children to rejoice in each other’s talents and strengths in a mutual appreciation they will respect each other – the barriers of sibling rivalry will then diminish and the bridges of friendship will then prosper!

This is a little mantra that we have on our ‘post-it wall of fame’ (remember the one I mentioned the other day):

In our family team we all share equality but we all manifest uniqueness – let’s celebrate each other 🙂

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