How to Patch Up a Sibling Rivalry

by Shannon Philpott

Siblings of any age can find reasons to disagree. Whether it involves toddlers sharing toys or adults refusing to see eye to eye, sibling rivalry can have a lasting effect if it is not resolved. Learn how to patch up disagreements and misunderstandings to strengthen your relationships with your siblings and free your family from the strain of the rivalry.

Get to the Root of the Problem

Pinpoint the root of the problem to patch up your differences with your siblings. Many family factors can spark sibling rivalry. Birth order, perceived favoritism or gender differences can bring out a green-eyed monster in children and adults alike, says Joan Grayson Cohen, senior manager of Access Services at Jewish Community Services in Baltimore.

Question your part in the conflict. Are you jealous of your siblings’ successes or the attention they receive? Are they jealous of you? Do your personalities, hobbies, likes and dislikes differ, causing distance between you?

Recognize how and why trust was lost or feelings were hurt to provide a starting point for reconciliation.

Actively Listen

Open the lines of communication with your siblings. Although you may not want to hear negative comments about your actions, if patching up a sibling rivalry is on your must-do list, then prepare yourself to actively listen to your siblings.

Communicate your feelings as a family by taking turns discussing the actions or hurtful comments that sparked the rivalry to begin with. Although it is easy to get defensive when accusations begin flying, make a pact with your siblings to listen to each other respectfully.

Validate the feelings of your siblings once all sides have a chance to explain their rationale, thoughts and opinions. Acknowledge that your siblings' feelings are real and valid.

Enlist the help of a moderator. The Mayo Clinic recommends conducting a family meeting in a safe environment, one that may include a parent or trusted friend as a mediator. An objective moderator shouldn’t take sides; instead, a mediator should keep the exchanges cordial and prompt each side to open up about the conflict and rivalry that exist.

Admit Wrongdoing

Admit the part you played in the conflict. Open communication can bring about a surprise turn of events if you are unaware of how your siblings feel and vice versa.

Admit wrongdoing and apologize if you realize that your actions caused a sibling harm or hurt feelings. If a sibling has hurt you and offers an apology, offer forgiveness. Patching up a sibling conflict or ongoing rivalry is much easier when both parties are willing to put their differences behind them and offer genuine acknowledgement of their part in the conflict.

Avoid playing the blame game, says Randy Conley on the website Leading with Trust. Excuses will only fuel an existing sibling rivalry, notes Conley. Instead, put a plan in place to change the behavior and work on a resolution.

Accept One Another

Resist the urge to demand conformity with siblings. Conformity is not a realistic expectation when it comes to siblings. In fact, differing personalities, interests and goals can offer valuable perspectives to the family. Just because you are a sports enthusiast, it doesn’t mean your brother has to share your passion.

Celebrate your diversity by respecting the fact that you may be very different from your siblings. Avoid future conflicts or sibling rivalries by learning more about the interests of your siblings. Ask your sister questions about her hobbies or career path and you might be surprised to learn a thing or two about her passion and dedication. If your brother is learning a musical instrument, offer to listen in on a jam session to show your support.

Rebuild trust with an open mind. Accepting one another can help rebuild trust when a relationship needs to be patched. It can also help siblings bond, as a result helping the entire family work toward cooperative and loving relationships with each other.

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About the Author

Shannon Philpott has been a writer since 1999. She has experience as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer and online copywriter. Philpott has published articles in St. Louis metro newspapers, "Woman's World" magazine, "CollegeBound Teen" magazine and on e-commerce websites, and also teaches college journalism and English. She holds a Master of Arts in English from Southern Illinois University.

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