Sibling Rivalry or Bullying? Discover the Differences

When I first met her at my school, I found her overbearing and distant. Like my other teachers, she was focused on the academic success of students. But unlike, other teachers, the tools she had for encouraging us towards academic excellence only included taunts, punishments, berating statements, and comparisons. The real result of her teaching methodology was more failures in her class than successes.
Like any other high-schooler, I thought that she was a mean human being who found solace in traumatizing others.
But my second encounter with her proved my first opinion about her wrong.
I had the privilege to develop family relations with her maiden family in my adulthood. She was the real sister of my immediate relative. I have to emphasize real because the relation between the two was not at all realistic.
Don’t get me wrong!
Both sisters loved each other, but they did so in their own convoluted ways. The elder sister, my immediate relative, was the bully who controlled her younger sister and created a false dangerous image of the world in her eyes. And the younger one was the victim who, oblivious to her sister’s lies, worshiped her perceived mentor and well-wisher.
The result was an embittered young woman who believed everything had more bad than good.
Their dysfunctional relation started in childhood and continued into their adulthood and took control of younger’s marital, occupational, and social life.
And it also taught a lesson to the elder sister, that she could always get her way whether or not she deserves it.
That understanding of their relationship was my first interaction with the concept of sibling rivalry. You would meet many people who would say which sister, or brother, can think bad of her (his) brother? Maybe these people are being truthful and really haven’t witnessed such a relationship.
But if you are reading this post, chances are that you already believe that such dysfunctions can and do arise.
Another thing which you should know is that this issue is not limited to dysfunctional families or less-than-perfect parenting styles, but can also arise in well-adjusted families. So, if you want to skip this article thinking that your family is mentally healthy so there will be no such issue in your children, don’t.

Sibling Rivalry- An Overview

Sibling rivalry is a healthy practice which teaches children social skills. The precious feeling of empathy, vital life skill of conflict resolution, and treasured reward of self-identity are a few gifts children get from these experiences.
There is a reason that those children who have siblings are more likely to grow up into well-adjusted adults than those children who are only child of their parents. And that reason has a lot to do with healthy sibling rivalry than other family dynamics.
There are various characteristics which define rivalry that is unique to siblings. Let’s consider them.
The continuous invisible tension that surrounds siblings among a family relates to their natural desire to express their identity as independent of their siblings and other family members. This tension is often surrounded by the natural warmth that makes part of healthy sibling relations.
One most prominent factor of these interactions is their short life span. When siblings show rivalry to each other, the actual act of rivalry, the intensity of conflict, and the negative feelings which develop as a result are short-lived. Natural balance and harmony among siblings prevail after the conflict is resolved or forgotten.
Another characteristic is the prevalence of balance. All siblings in the family have something to put in the conflict. Parents cannot single out any one child as the aggressor or the other as aggrieved. All children take turns to test the limits and benefit from the situation.

Sibling Bullying – An Overview

Bullying is a word that activates our emotions that also negatively. We assume that the act of bullying is also the same: loud and clear. And, most often, this assumption is right but not when we deal with sibling rivalry.
The concept of sibling rivalry has resulted in so many positive developments and we tend to normalize it so much that we become oblivious when it crosses the line and becomes toxic.
For most parents, their children are flawless in thoughts and actions. This belief of flawlessness of children is further emphasized by cultural beliefs that children have a pure heart and well-meaning intentions.
We often forget that children are just little human beings who have interests and identities different from others. And no law states that children cannot exercise unethical manners to achieve their goal. In reality, children are extremely imaginative and creative. This ability makes them resourceful for pursuing their good and bad quests.
But you have to look closely to be sure that your home is free of sibling bullying. This matter cannot be ignored as its effects are far-reaching.
For example, in my previous example, the victim of sibling bullying ended up as a grumpy old teacher who was mean and hurtful to her students.
The bully suffered (because always suffer from their internal drama), the victim suffered, and the more victims were affected and created to spread the negativity.
Timely detection and prevention of sibling bullying is an important step towards raising a healthy society. But how can you do this?
How can you identify bullies in your children?
Look out for the signs.

Conflict-Free Home

No two human beings can live under one roof without friction. We all dream of a friction-less familial life. But a life with healthy differences in opinions supported by positive conflict resolution skills is more attractive.
If any two, or more, of your children, appear to be having a perfectly harmonious relationship, you should be concerned.
If your children are arguing and humanely resolving their conflicts, it is a sign of healthy communication skills. But if there is no mismatch in opinion and the loudest opinion among children remain unchallenged most of the times, it signals the oppression of other children.
At the same time, younger siblings often tend to idolize their elder siblings. Such infatuations portray perfectly healthy relations. But these feelings are temporary. And if one of your children is extending the obsession period, it may signal psychological manipulation from a younger sibling or another graver issue.

Excessive Tension

There is a healthy tension among relations that signal differences in opinions. And then there is unhealthy tension. You might feel unhealthy tension as a thick atmosphere where you wouldn’t like to stay for long.
IF your kids are not enjoying jokes together or are not interested in spending time with each other there can be an underlying issue that needs your attention. At the same time, if there is only one kid who wants to stay out of the company of his other sibling, or siblings, it is a good reason to investigate further.
Kids, being little human beings, look forward towards human interactions. And these interactions are best for ids when they come from family members and siblings.
If a kid is avoiding interactions from a sibling it is a tell-tale sign of difficulty in relation.

Intensity of Fights

Other than the hidden symptoms which you must look for, there are a few tell-tale signs that are obvious indicators that the tension is coming from a family member. First of these is the intensity of fights.
Yes, all children fight, but the extreme aggression and emotional and verbal assault that come with bullying easily give away the fight as bullying.
You would not expect a normal sibling conflict to bring up all the baggage from past fights and conflicts. Normal fights do not every time discuss how parents favored one child more over the other. Yes, the families where such favoritism is a norm, this argument is brought up time and again during conflicts or otherwise, the intensity is low when the tendency of bullying is missing.

Power Imbalance

If one of your kids always wins in the fights or get away with his deeds, it is more likely that he is bullying the other child.
There are circumstances where because of differences in physical and mental strengths one sibling always has more control of the situation over the other. And there are other circumstances where the stronger child is only retaliating with the same level of strength as the other child but because of differences in their strengths, the weaker child loses his ground more easily.
But you should keep in mind that such unintentional harms are just as bad for the mental health of your weaker kid as are the intentional harms caused by a bully. No kid deserves to be threatened by a stronger opponent at his home.

Intentions of the Aggressor

One of the characterizing features of bullying is the intentions of the aggressor. Bullies tend to vent their emotional distress to threaten, assault, dis-empower, and weaken their victims. In the beginning, the assaults and aggression may seem trivial and unintentional but there is a tell-tale sign of intention in later encounters and that sign is repetition.
If it appears that one sibling is continually picking a fight with the other, there is a good chance that he/she is.

Lack of Warmth During and After Fights

Sibling bullying occurs among siblings. And sibling relation is one of the most intimate relations which humans enjoy. The beauty of this relationship means that, in normal circumstances, the siblings are prone to show concern for all the mean statement they make and aggressions they show during and after the conflict.
But that feature relates to healthy siblings. Sibling bullies lack empathy for their victims and don’t express it (or pretend to express it when there is an onlooker).

Wrap Up

It may not appear to be a big deal but sibling bullying is not healthy. It can interfere with children’s emotional and cognitive development.
At the same time, it is not uncommon or unheard of type of bullying.
Being a parent, we tend to overlook mistakes and wrong intentions of our kids. This ignorance may make us normalize sibling bullying at our home as just sibling rivalry.
This eye-opening article sheds light on differences between the two phenomena so we are more equipped to intervene at the right time.

3 Ways Chores are Helping Your Child’s Emotional Development

What has become of the lovely girl who used to hover around me whenever I expressed distress!

How that angel outgrew the phase of care and concern for his parents and any other (living or non-living) being present around him!

Has puberty (or tween age) hit them?

Or there is some connection missing between me (as the parent) or them?

These are some common worries which occupy our minds from time to time. Thinking of ways our children are developing with time often result in us blaming ourselves for any change in their behavior.

And why wouldn’t we? After all, they used to be so caring when they were little. And passing years are only adding more willfulness in them.

And then we shift the blame to their age.

The Role of Age

Age does have a say in how our kids respond to their responsibilities and role in the house. But that doesn’t mean we have no control over improving the situation for our family’s peace of mind.

It may appear that asking our kids to participate in house chores is only adding stress to our already burnt out mommy brain. But this is just a point of view.

The other viewpoint is that these pleas, threats, shouting matches, and nagging sessions are adding some other ingredients to the mix.

They are empowering your kids with a number of life skills.

The most prominent of which is the skill, or trait, of standing up for them (ahem).

Development of Voice

When we ask them to do some chores, they will know if these chores are directly related to them or not. If they believe these chores are related to them in an obvious manner, their resistance towards doing these chores will be minimal.

But expect them to put up a strong fight if they perceive these chores to be unrelated to them.

Although this friction may pull your spirits down, they are a great developmental tool for your kids in considering and understanding a point of view which is different from their own.

And this broadening viewpoint leads us to another byproduct of doing chores: negotiation skills of your children.

Negotiation Skills

When I was a kid, I used to think that primary aim of negotiation skills was to strike a balance which is favorable to you regardless of benefits attained or losses borne by the other party in negotiations.

Now, I am a grown-up, thankfully. So, I know better.

The fact is, the key to impressive negotiation skills lies in understanding your opponent’s point of view and reaching a middle ground which is beneficial for both of you.

So, if you are patient enough to sell the ownership of these chores to your kids, you are kind enough to indirectly teach them the value of understanding different viewpoints.

This skill of empathizing will help them nurture healthy social skills which are beneficial to not only them but to the whole society.

And then come the actual negotiation skills. Believe me, those shouting matches, demeaning remarks, and taunts can be handled with calm congruence and modeling of healthy communication skills.

Once they are equipped with civilized negotiation skills, you will thank yourself for sticking to your parenting and disciplining goals.

Joy and Confidence

Joy? Will they enjoy doing chores? Doesn’t it seem impossible?

Well, it does at first.

But as they accept the fact that they are responsible they will develop an intrinsic motivation for these chores.

Maslow charted need for self-actualization at the height of human needs for some reason. And that reason was the ultimate value attached to this need.

If you are willing to keep guaranteeing fulfillment of other needs, including safety, love, and growth, there is no way your kids would not thrive to fulfill this higher-order need.

They gain confidence that they can be a positive part of the society because they are capable of performing duties which were previously only levied on adults.

Other than self-actualization, doing chores also appease kids’ need for belongingness. In fact, chores become play when you join the kids by mentoring them about accomplishing the chores after you have ditched judgment and criticism.

And, lastly, you both get to experience each other’s communication style and develop the relationship accordingly.

Wrap Up

Assigning chores to children might appear to be an exercise to help parents in getting rid of excess workload. But, in reality, it is a tool for raising happy, self-confident, and self-reliant kids.

You may or may not succeed in developing a healthy chores routine depending on your communication style and not on the number of chores you assign.

So, if you are assigning chores to your kids be ready to extend an empathetic ear to their complaints and understanding, but truthful, answer to these rants.

4 Tips to Help Your Kids Deal with Failures Turning Them into Success Milestones

You know what would follow when your kid decides to try a new skill.

You understand that initial difficulties in mastering the skill independently would frustrate his little brain.

And he would question his abilities or take the matter personally.

You know the thought process going on within his head.

And you know how this process will conclude. In a tantrum!

You brace yourself for the upcoming tantrum. Or maybe you consider intervening and rescuing him from the situation.

Stop yourself! Because this untimely intervention can harm your kid’s tolerance towards failure.

Teach him to accept failures as friction which is only meant to facilitate movement.

Instead of soothing your kids, try these tips to help your kids deal with failure and turn it into a neutral experience free of negative emotions.

Accept Challenge

To you, their tantrum is a challenge. To them, the top not spinning perfectly is a challenge.

Accept your challenge as a minor hurdle which is giving you angles of improvement so they can do the same for their challenges.

Let go of worry. Children are intuitive they will pick the vibrations of calmness and peace in you and follow your lead.

Accept Their Challenge

Talk about their challenge. So, they are losing at their game or lagging behind in their homework.

Tell them it happens. Let them express their feelings by identifying and naming emotions.

Don’t panic. Don’t generalize the situation. It can be a one-off event or it can be from a stream of similar failures. We, as parents, have to accept that our child is different. He may not accomplish the goals in the same time-line as their siblings or peers. Don’t worry if your child hasn’t yet started dressing himself by the age of four years. He will catch up with positive reinforcement and proper training. But judgment and worry will only deter his success.

Don’t Judge

Your kid is not falling behind if he can’t grasp the new math concept the first, second or fifth time. Every problem is different and so does every occasion when they approach this problem.

It is only natural for you to expect high achievement if your child showed excess attention in his first meeting with a new skill. But accept that his mood will experience different shifts in subsequent encounters so does his interest and attention.

Don’t expect the same level of command on the skill in every encounter and accept the deficiencies.

Give Appropriate Pep-Talk

Make them understand the complications involved in the process before they take up the challenge.

Inform them of the expected success rate and tell them that failure is only an indication that you are moving in the right direction.

Tell them positive stories about success and failure and how these results don’t matter.

Show them that only persistence guarantees success, not early successes or failures.

Avoid Rescuing Them

Just don’t. You will kill their ability to bounce back by helping themselves.

You can distract them if they are too distressed but that should be just the last resort or if the challenge is beyond their age. Remind them about the power of yet in the latter case.

If they seek help, join them as a team. Don’t tell them what to do. Instead, explore the options with their results together.

Let them have confidence in achieving their goals themselves.

Wrap Up

What would you do next time seeing your kids distressed over their failures?

Let them make peace with the hurdles that come in their way by equipping them with the right tools. Allow them to feel it. Help your kids deal with failures by commanding complete control over them.

Failure shouldn’t control your kids. Rather your kids should be the one to have to reign.


Playing with Kids? 4 Signs You are Doing It All Wrong and Ways to Improve

So you are a good parent and you keep plenty of time unscheduled for your kids so they can enjoy themselves in free time.

You understand the importance of these activities for your child’s confidence, grit, and social skills.

What’s more! You try to match your free time with theirs so you can spend time with them.

You have designated space and toys just so your kids have all the resources they need.

And you assume playtime at your home is fun.

But there are certain signs that play at your home is not the play that brings joy and emotional awareness to your children.

More Than Half of Your Playtime is Spent Indoor

It’s customary for most families nowadays to spend most of their leisure times at home.

If you are not at home enjoying board games and movies, you are out in the entertainment parks to take rides or having dinner at sensational restaurants.

There is nothing bad with either of these options. But the balance should be more in favor of outdoor games and activities.

You cannot go hiking or for spending time in the woods every other day. But you can make sure that your kids have excess time for play dates featuring backyard picnics and volleyball matches.

And if you are blessed with a park in the vicinity of your house, use this blessing well.

Play is Peaceful at Your Home

But play should be peaceful, shouldn’t it be?

Yes, it should be peaceful but only to a certain extent. An unnaturally calm and quarrel-less play among children may signal imbalanced power structure or low-spirited kids.

Play is for fun. But this fun should bring growth and nourishment for your kids’ cognitions and emotional self.

Presence of imbalanced power structure, however, brings just the opposite. It brings strained relations with siblings or other playmates. It allows one party to invite emotional states of anger and pride while the other party develops the fear, shame, and resentment. All these emotions are unhealthy and repress kids’ ability to understand their needs and connect with their inner selves.

At the same time, if kids are more tame than normal, you (or other caregivers) might be disciplining them harder than is necessary. The result is, again, resentment.

They Need Your Help during Play

There can be various kinds of help they might require. Asking for direction about the nature and content of the play is one of these.

Others include asking for more toys, or change in furniture settings, or assistance in role-playing.

Their dependence on you as a judge and mediator also signals lost cause.

If you are an active participant in their game then most help is okay.

But if they are playing independently, then they should play without your intervention.

Remember play is the duty of children. They should be able to fulfill their duty with little external help.

Play is an Accessory

Do you believe that play is an accessory for your kids which can be ignored in face of time constraints?

Or do you think the play can be substituted with other activities like reading circles or house chores?

These two beliefs indicate that you are undermining the importance of play in your kids’ life. And everything which receives less priority from us ends up getting ignored by us, if not consciously then subconsciously.

So, if you think recreational activities are not a priority, your sub-conscious will present one accuse or another to deter you from allowing space for it in your kids’ lives.

Reconsider your priorities and understand that play is one of the most crucial learning tools our kids can have in their childhood and later parts of their lives.

Wrap Up

Play should be just play. Without the expectations of growth, learning, and bonding.

But these by-products of play are important too. So, why not enhance them by bringing simple changes to the way we approach play and recreation.