Sibling Rivalry Is Good...Really
Which relationship is the longest, most difficult and most rewarding in your life?
Not your pet, your kids or your spouse. Your siblings are the ones who travel from childhood to (hopefully) old age alongside you. Sometimes they create problems for you, sometimes they can smooth them over.
My own relationship with my sister was difficult for much of our school years, though now we are close. But if you had told me on the day that I fished my favourite lipstick out of the pocket of my favourite suede jacket that was stuffed in the back of her closet for weeks that I would call her most mornings one day, I would tell you that you were crazy.
Watching my own three kids interact can be the most irritating and lovely part of being a parent. Their constant fighting and antagonizing of each other can make me lose my cool on the calmest of days. But the statistic that siblings fight 10 times per hour makes me feel a little better. I think that all parents need a little help in managing sibling relationships.
It is just too easy to fall into the blame cycle and start yelling at them to get along. I think that deep down all parents are worried that their kids are going to grow up and hate each other and be alone in the world. After all, we all know siblings who don't speak or whose only relationship is to fight over money, or their parents, or where to have the holidays.
A documentary on CBC, Sibling Rivalry: Near, Dear and Dangerous, examines the sibling relationship by looking at families such as the feuding McCains, the competitive hockey-playing Stahls and a "regular" family teetering on the edge of dysfunction.
By looking at famous families, the film is aiming to show that all siblings fight for their time in the sun and it's normal. In the film, expert Alyson Schafer says that fighting is natural and even good because it helps kids figure out how to get along. The sibling relationship is where we learn our social laws and natural repercussions for behaviour.
There are, of course, some ground rules for parents:
Help every child shine: Each person in a family needs a way to feel special, where they don't have to compete for attention. That is why kids often develop different strengths and interests.
Do not compare kids: Don't make everything a competition between kids, do not compare them.
Do not name favourites: Parents may feel closer to some kids or have favourites but they should never be named. In the film, Jeffrey Kluger, author of the Sibling Effect, says it is an act of love to hide your favouritism, even if everyone in the family knows it. (He is the author of the book that says every parent has a favourite, so you can take or leave his advice.)
Some relationships are too toxic: the film uses actresses Olivia deHavilland and Joan Fontaine as an example of a sibling relationship gone wrong, thanks to a parent's favouritism. The women haven't spoken in decades and that is probably for the best.
Check out the documentary on CBC on CBC Doc Zone tonight (September 6th) at 9 p.m. or on CBC News Network at 10 p.m. on Friday, September 7th.
Do your kids get along? Do you get along with your siblings now?
Want more chaos? Last year, I wrote about when Evenflo upset alot of mothers when they created a sort of offensive video.