Sibling rivalry

It doesn’t matter how many brothers or sisters we have, there will always be an element of rivalry, which unfortunately for most, lasts long after childhood.

Sibling happens where children feel they have to compete for the attention of their parents, particularly if they’re getting very little attention, or none at all. It also starts when additional siblings are introduced into the family and the family dynamics are changed for the first time.

An only child who likes having their parents’ attention may often feel threatened by the introduction of a new sibling. As the family grows, there is often a pecking order between the siblings, because attention is paid to the children that conform, which leaves the other siblings fighting for attention.

Children whose parents don’t recognise their abilities, who don’t encourage, support or give them the attention they need to thrive, will remain stuck in the same kind of relationships, as an adult. Unfortunately, we don’t always understand how family work and how we get to change those dynamics. We must perceive family differently and work together.

Sibling rivalry isn’t always down to the parents though. The nature of where we are in our lives, has its own impact. Siblings will look at their sisters or brothers’ success and draw comparisons with their own achievements, rather than drawing comparisons with themselves.

It’s a human failing, but drawing comparisons is something that society teaches and encourages and continues to encourage through competition.

27 Dec, 2012

10 thoughts on “Sibling rivalry

  1. I agree and see everything you say between my sister and me. I got dad’s attention and my sister got mom’s attention, but my sister had encouragement from both of my parents, where I didn’t get much encouragement at all, as far as my future and my abilities.

    I was the sick one and they didn’t think I would live a long life. I wasn’t smart like my sister, but I didn’t flunk either. I made average grades whereas my sister was a straight A student. She was a cheerleader all through school and college and then was a cheerleader couch.

    She went to a top school for 5 years and got a BS degree. I goofed off and didn’t know what I wanted to be, until I finally decided to be a nurse. I still have some jealous feelings towards her and she has some towards me, mainly because I had the first grandchild and my daughter got everything she wanted from my mom and now that my sister has kids of her own mom can’t give them everything she gave my daughter.

    I got a lot of things from dad that my sister didn’t get. He bought all my cars I think there was 6 altogether and he paid for my college. My sister and I get along now just fine. We had disagreements as kids, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary. We love each other very much.

    I still have my quirks with her as I think she is trying to get the attention all the time via her kids. She will monopolize a conversation and brag about her children and their abilities, even if the conversation wasn’t about that subject to start with. Like for example I was talking to my aunt the other night about our son and my sister just broke in and started talking about her daughter.

    I don’t know if she knows what she does or not and I’m not going to ask. Maybe one day I will say something but right now I’ll just let it go.

    1. You’re still rivals and from what you say it looks as though your relationship really hasn’t changed that much since you were children and won’t unless you both choose to change it.

      Unfortunately for both you and your sister, you have got caught up in your parents’ bad behaviour playing one against the other, you having more attention from your father and him lavishing you with cars and paying for college and your sister gaining more attention from your mom and being a straight A student. Being sick has nothing to do with being rivals.

      Now it’s time to stand back and let things go, so you’re both less likely to continue with that behaviour. It’s very easy to come in and have an opinion, or try to prove that in some way you’re better or more successful, or that our children are better and/or more successful.

      You must be supportive together. Being rivals all the time means you’re both having to prove yourself and out do and out wit each other all the time. I’m not sure how that fits in with any relationship, let alone a close one.

      If you let it continue, your parents have won.

  2. Pretty simple in my family, we all had our roles, which was really sad! My oldest sister had loose morals, even though she was more of a mother than my own! My Brother was the star who basically got all the girls and could do no wrong!

    My other Sister was the Princess, who my mother doted on, even after she turned out to act like my other sister. I, of course, ended up being the ‘Baby’ of the group, who mommy spoiled until he wasn’t a baby anymore! It may be very blunt terms, but I grew up in a very blunt world. It was just a very chaotic childhood, where we ended up taking care of our parents more than they ever took care of us.

    My siblings took care of me quite often, but also hated me when I was treated better than they were. My oldest sister got married at 16 to get out of the house and I don’t blame her.

    My Brother got married after getting a girl pregnant and amazingly they’re still together! (They planned it I guess, since her family didn’t approve and they wanted to be together.) My other sister got married for the same reason and it was very hard for me, since they both moved out around the same time!

    Fast forward to now and things between us are really bizarre! My oldest sister moved far away and I don’t have a chance to see her, but we get along well after surviving our issues! My Brother is kind of estranged, after screwing me on a loan, but we talk occasionally and they live close.

    My other sister has become someone I don’t even know after divorcing her second husband and hooking up with the biggest loser she could find! She just really blew my mind, after we talked for many hours about what we went through and she went right back to acting like when she was a teenager!

    Guess I’m just grieving a lot, since I’m not as close as I would like to be with my siblings, between my own mistakes and choices they made. It’s like waking from a coma and pretty much 20 years has gone by, with not much to show for it!

    They seem to have gotten on with their lives a long time ago, while I was stuck in a time loop. I’m hoping and praying that I can finally get on with my own life again very soon!

    1. Thank you for being so honest Randy, this must have been so difficult for you.

      It takes a great deal of courage and determination to change learned behaviour, which clearly stems from the way we’re parented. From your response you clearly understand everything there is to understand about your childhood Randy and I believe that’s half the battle in any healing process. It’s when we’re unable to recognise any of these negative traits that we get stuck, repeating negative patterns.

      I hope you and your siblings will be able to turn things around soon, so that you can ALL be more at ease with your past and with each other. You all deserve to have that.

  3. Prior to the holidays, my brother called up and said what he always says to me if I answer the phone. “Hi is dad there?” I hate that no hello how are you nothing.

    Thank God we got through the holiday without a dust up. He has always been the achiever, the one that gave my parents grandchildren. I just cook.

    1. It’s sad Randy, but from what you say you have no relationship. Even without the relationship it would be nice if your brother was courteous. That’s acceptable.

      Your brother had children Randy, but I am just trying to equate how that makes him an achiever and why would that make you a non-achiever? It’s how our parents’ define us, perhaps it’s time to make your mark and define your own achievements and successes.

  4. I have the most uncomfortable situation that my middle sister has ex-communicated me and my family.

    My mother and elder sister feel that is okay and constantly talk about her and her family to me. I have advised that this hurts my feelings but they continue to do it. I did discuss this with them both at length.

    My eldest sister’s response was “it’s your turn to be on the outer.” Three sisters have always been an issue. The eldest is now 62, middle 59 and I am 58.

    I am suffering because they constantly compare how wonderful middle sister is and I am in competition with no one. I just want to be a better person than I was yesterday.

    I feel very unhappy and at the moment it is eating me up after spending time with my Mum over Christmas.

    1. Thanks Wendy. Yes, it’s no one’s turn to be on the ‘outer.’ Your family aren’t getting this right and this isn’t about you.

      In this situation I would use your time to get on with your life away from your immediate family and concentrate your efforts on you and your own family.

      We cannot change our extended family, but we can change our attitude around them and choose to do things differently. You’re dealing with years of learned dysfunctional behaviour that in effect needs relearning.

      Whilst you understand that, they’re not learning, and you need to be away from them. The more distance you put between you, the less you will feel ‘unhappy’ and the more in control of your life you will be.

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