Sibling rivalry

When we think of rivalry between siblings, things like jealousy, envy, competition, and other abnormal and negative behaviour always comes to mind. Jealousy is reprehensible and forbidden, especially when experienced by an older child on the birth of a sibling.

Many parents tell the older child that jealousy is ugly and should never exist as he is the younger one's friend and play companion. This is true, but there is another aspect to it.
When a younger sibling is born, he will share everything the older child was so far used to getting all for himself. These include parental love, the house, sometimes the room, toys and relatives' attention.
The older child realises this at the outset when his mother gets pregnant. The division of the womb begins from then on. Jealousy in this case is expected, and therefore normal.
It is unusual when the older child does not experience any rivalry towards the new-born and treats him amicably. If that happens, we can say that this is strange and disturbing. It is generally not part of the nature of the child, and, of course, his jealousy may surface sometimes.
Intense jealousy can be a source of great anxiety for parents. Jealousy in children, when it is not too strong, is a normal personality trait. It involves a healthy rivalry. When this occurs in sibling relationships, it is a preparatory training for the competitive phase, which the child must face in the social and professional environment later.
Hostility and hatred are the most common manifestations of jealousy. Hostility can range from mild manifestations of aggression and minor peeves to a complete intolerance of the younger sibling, with a desire to 'eliminate' the hated individual.
Jealousy can also be manifested indirectly. The child experiences anxiety and directs his hostility openly towards his brother.
There may also be a regression in the older child's behaviour: anger or aggression against the parents, a lack of appetite, refusal to study or failure in academic tests.
When this phase extends so far, it may threaten the child's personality growth, leading to ambivalence and indecision, difficulty in carrying out tasks that require a capacity for abstraction, as well as in reaching logical conclusions.
In order to rebel against a younger sibling's presence, a child may do the opposite of what parents want him to. For example, if the parents want him to be a good student, be disciplined, etc, the child may behave in exactly the opposite manner in order to attract their attention.
There are also passive mechanisms. The child sometimes internalises his hostility. He may experience nervous tics and speech difficulties, begin bed-wetting or want parents to put food in his mouth - stages which he may have already outgrown.
Another passive mechanism is when the child is listless, dull, lazy and unenthusiastic. He may also lock himself in emotionally, and cease normal relations with other family members.
Since affectivity and intelligence are closely linked, the academic progress and personality development of these children is often impacted. Another passive mechanism is self-devaluation. The child thinks he is not important anymore and keeps a low profile. This depressive reaction may even lead to self-destructive behaviour.
Parents need to praise the child and channel his aggression into activities he performs with ease, such as swimming or another sport. He should be encouraged to make new friends and visit different places. Comparisons with the younger sibling must obviously be avoided. They are inevitable, but will hopefully be done by outsiders.
To say that a younger sibling is more intelligent, capricious or loving will not serve to stimulate a child. On the contrary, it will only make him feel ashamed and inferior. When he grows up, he is likely to be perceived as unwise or unaffectionate, which is not unusual.
We often find adults or teenagers who think they are ugly, incompetent or unimaginative because they always have been compared to younger siblings or other children.
Comparisons of this kind undermine the child's character traits and delay his development. When we talk about comparisons made by parents, we must also take into account their preferences, which can affect the child's emotional development.
Parents should identify and highlight the positive behaviour of each child. Their individual skills and talents should always be valued and never compared. When a child shares a caring and loving relationship with his parents, he will find other relationships easier to manage.

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