Siblings naturally compete with each other in all areas of life; they fight for their parents’ praise and attention and compete to be recognized as the “better student” or the “better athlete.” Sports can increase sibling rivalry. Some siblings are jealous of each other and hold grudges while others show support and give encouragement.
No matter what type of environment parents create, siblings will compete. Sibling rivalry can be positive. It teaches kids how to handle conflict, how to cooperate, manage aggression and be sympathetic. Siblings can learn how to handle conflict by working through it on their own. However, parents should emphasize that fighting is not an appropriate way to settle arguments.
How can parents foster healthy levels of sibling rivalry?
Below are some tips for parents to encourage healthy levels of competition.
- Downplay success. Success is important, but not at a sibling’s expense. Kids who sit on the bench or don’t perform as well as their siblings may feel disappointed or frustrated. Parents should downplay success in order to prevent jealousy among siblings. When parents talk about one child’s success, it can only lead to resentment among siblings.
- Praise effort. Parents can encourage kids to work hard despite how well they perform. Emphasizing effort helps kids persist in the face of failure. It also gives them a sense of control over how they perform.
- Praise and show interest in non-sports activities. Parents should not overemphasize involvement in sports. Some kids are less athletic than their siblings. Parents should praise kids for what they excel in. This gives them the opportunity to stand out from their siblings. Parents should show as much excitement about non-sports activities as they do sporting events.
- Competition should stay on the field. Parents should not let competitiveness continue at home. Siblings need to take a breather.
- Do not play favorites. Parents may unknowingly support one child more than the other. This causes kids to feel they are not good enough. It’s best to avoid comparisons among siblings. These comparisons generate tension among siblings and may affect their self-esteem.
Competition is a natural part of sports. Parents can keep sibling rivalry positive by following these suggestions.