Taruna is exhausted. She has just come back from a hard day at work and she walks into the house only to hear her children screaming at each other. The moment they see her, accusations fly faster. “He's not letting me study and I have my exam coming up,” shouts her daughter, while her son screams back, “She only pretends to study .”

Sibling rivalry is a fact of life. Taruna and her husband have tried hard to bring up their children with no conflict but are unable to overcome the forces of nature! It seems that they are always pulling them apart or acting as referees in another skirmish. What is the solution? Sibling rivalry is very common. Fights among brothers and sisters will be interspersed with periods of affection and adoration for each other.When there is a new baby born, the seeds of sibling rivalry are sown because the sibling sees a potential rival for parental attention. It does not seem to matter what the age difference is between siblings — they will find new and innovative situations to escalate a sibling war!

Why do siblings fight?

It is natural that as they grow, siblings will develop individual needs and personalities. They will grow away from each other in terms of attitude and temperament. This will lead to conflicts. One child may be so possessive about her belongings, the other sibling might have such an innate sense of sharing that he is left angry and frustrated that she won't share with him.

You love him more! This is a statement all parents have heard. Most children grow up with a secret conviction that the other child is more important to the parents. This triggers off unacceptable behaviour that makes one sibling try to expose the other child as being the worse one. A child may get more attention because of a physical, emotional or learning disability. This may be hard to handle for the other sibling.

All parents have had moments when they wonder how the same genetic material has produced children of such disparate personalities! Children, who see their parents treat each other with respect and a strong sense of fair play, will learn acceptable behaviour from them. Conflict between parents may precipitate and aggravate sibling rivalry.

Nevertheless there are a few good rules parents should follow:

* Don't make comparisons. Constantly pointing out one child's shortcomings in comparison to his sibling will only brew resentment.

* Do not expect a child to never get angry. Anger and resentment are normal emotions. The child must be allowed to vent his anger. * Allow the children to try to work out their differences. You might have to step in and separate the siblings when the situation is out of control. The children must be equally held responsible. The best resolution comes when both are taught to compromise. Through sibling rivalry children learn the rules of engagement, negotiation, compromise and resolution.

GITA ARJUN

The author is an obstetrician and gynaecologist practising in Chennai and has written the book ‘Passport to a Healthy Pregnancy'.

www.passport2health.in

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