Jan 9, 2024

Siblings and Rivalry

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by Katie Rapp

As parents of multiple children, there is one thing that we have probably all experienced.

SIBLING RIVALRY.  Can I get an Amen?

We are not given a handbook on how to raise our children to love each other well without the fierce competition. Nobody really tells us the truth of how hard or stressful parenting will be. Our own parents can come in and tell us how they handled things. They may even point out that we turned out all right and we are close to our siblings now. But a bigger picture is good for perspective.

The great news is that while there isn’t a handbook per se, there is the Bible. The word of God actually shines a light on sibling rivalry in a few places.  But the Bible also gives two very important commandments that we can teach our children as we navigate sibling rivalry.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself’

When it comes to Sibling Rivalry this can happen from the moment the second child is born and will continue as they grow up in some cases.  All is not lost, there are rich lessons to be learned from the Word of God!  Loving our neighbor as ourselves is the first one that comes to mind. This means siblings too.

Plus there are a few tools at the end of this post for activities to help siblings enjoy each other.

We can take it one step at a time and pray for wisdom by asking for help and guidance from our God.  It is our job to teach our kids and raise them to be Christ-like. To show them the importance of how we behave and how to treat each other.  

Sibling Rivalry in the Bible

Parents should model the same acts of kindness, respect, and love Jesus teaches us in the Bible. Part of this is the responsibility to not allow the Sin of favoritism to be part of our home.  There are many stories in the Bible that show how damaging favoritism is or even perceived favoritism.

The first story that really comes to mind is Jacob and Esau. Twin brothers born to Isaac and his wife Rebekah. You may be familiar with this story.

Rebekah loved Jacob and Isaac loved Esau. They each favored a child. As a parent, that is easy to do because our children are people with personalities. Maybe your personality meshes with one child more than the other.

There will be moments when this can happen and it may not be intentional but our kids see it all. We can catch ourselves saying things like, “why can’t you be more like your brother or sister” or giving more attention to one than the others in the home. 

Be mindful and catch what you are doing. Ask God to show you times when this has happened. It didn’t work out well for Jacob and Esau. Jacob stole a birthright (or more accurately bought it with a bowl of soup) and a blessing with the help of his mother and created a whole list of enemies for the nation of Isreal. Not that you will create enemies of nations but it will feel like it when your children grow up and are still battling to feel important to you.

Many times sibling rivalry can stem from jealously, selfishness, and parental partiality. It is our job to love them and show them to live in harmony and respect one another. No matter what, we as parents love our kids dearly and it’s our job to guide and love them as much as we can. In addition, we should freely give praise and affirmation to all of our kids equally. 

Remember the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors? He was number 11 of 12 brothers. Joseph’s mother was Rachel, the wife that Jacob loved more than his other wife Leah(who happened to be Rachel’s sister, which is a whole other sibling rivalry story). This made Joseph favored.

Which made his brothers hate him so much that they sold him into slavery and told their dad that he had been killed by wild animals. How’s that for sibling rivalry? That story ends well but Jacob thought his son was dead for something like 20 years because of this rivalry caused by favoritism.

Letting all of your children know that we are proud of them and love exactly who God made them to be will encourage them.  They will feel seen and valued. The bible says that our words do have power over everyone even our children. Proverbs 18:21 says” Death and Life is in the Power of the Tongue”. 

We may not realize what we are saying and how we say it, but it can impact our kids tremendously. Choosing our words and how we say them, is very important. Especially when it comes to siblings and how we act towards them. 

Tools for Parents

We want to give you some tips to help your children not only get along but to enjoy being around each other as well. To help them become friends.

Spend One on One Time With Each Child

You may be wondering how on Earth this will help. Well, it will. Many times sibling rivalry comes from competing for attention and love. Spend one on one time with each child, even if it’s only 20 minutes a day or an hour a week. This will fill their little cups and squelch conflicts.

Remind Them That They Are Both Made in the Image of God

Reminding your children daily that, even though they are different, they are both made in the image of God! He has the power to change the way they see each other. This teaches them that they deserve respect and love no matter what.

Remind Them That They Are Not the Parent

Many times sibling conflict and rivalry result when one child tries to take authority over the other. Reminders that they are not the parents and that God gave them parents to help them and raise them will give some perspective.

Have Some Fun Family Time

Take turns letting your kids pick the game for game night or the movie for movie night. Give each child the chance to talk about their favorite treat or food during mealtime and make sure they aren’t interrupted. This will build respect for each other and their preferences.