8 Comments

I Don’t Believe in Sibling Rivalry

NewbornLet me clarify. I believe it exists. And I believe in sibling squabbling. My kids squabble all the time. Sometimes they full-on bicker. And every now and then they actually fight. What I mean is, I don’t think Cain and Abel are the rule. I don’t think kids inherently dislike their siblings. I don’t think they automatically resent each other.

I missed posting last week because about the time that I would normally be typing something up I was in labor, preparing to deliver my fifth baby. From the moment she was born, all her older siblings were absolutely enthralled. They couldn’t wait to get a turn to hold her. I heard “She’s so adorable!” about eleven thousand times that first day. For the first couple days I hardly got to hold her unless she was crying because her brothers and sister all wanted turns snuggling her. Even the three-year-old wanted his turns to hold her.

At one moment my mom made a comment about how you never see preparing-for-baby-sibling books that have kids who are delighted with their new sibling. I’m sure there are some out there, but as I was thinking about it, the books that came to mind are all about preparing your older child(ren) for this huge adjustment they’re about to experience. They portray kids who resent the new baby for taking the parents’ attention. They talk about explaining to your child how your heart has room for both and so on. They don’t tell you how to deal with kids who are thrilled to have a baby. It’s like it’s assumed that the older kids will be upset. It’s as though it doesn’t occur to the book and article writers that a new baby might be a delight to everyone.

Of course, I’m not saying there isn’t valuable advice to be had. It IS an adjustment (even if it’s a happy one) and the older child(ren) DOES need to be made to feel like their place is secure, but I think there’s almost too much emphasis put on that part of it. I think to an extent we become so worried about the chance for resentment that we create a self-fulfilling prophecy. We tell the older child “Now, don’t worry, mommy and daddy will still love you just as much,” and inadvertently tell him, “There’s the potential for worry and the possibility that we wouldn’t still love you the same.” In preparing for the worst, we create the feeling that there is something to prepare for. In being told not to worry, we give them something to worry about.

What if, instead of preparing for the inevitable, parents prepared for the added joy of a new sibling? What if we assumed everyone would be thrilled and acted that way? The expectation would then be that this is a thrilling event and it wouldn’t even occur to the older kids that they should be resentful of this intrusion into their way of life.

I’m sure for the most part parents do this instinctively. And I’m sure I’m not the only mom whose kids enjoy each other more often than not, despite the squabbling and bickering and fighting. But I think it’s always good to remember in all areas of life that expectation influences outcome. Expect the positive. Assume the best. Give the benefit of the doubt. You’re more likely to see positive results if you’re looking for them.

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About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

8 comments on “I Don’t Believe in Sibling Rivalry

  1. > What if, instead of preparing for the inevitable, parents prepared for the added joy of a new sibling? What if we assumed everyone would be thrilled and acted that way? The expectation would then be that this is a thrilling event and it wouldn’t even occur to the older kids that they should be resentful of this intrusion into their way of life.

    Yes, how is it that we are so quick as humans to shoot ourselves in the foot? 😛 Very, very good… and congratulations once again! 🙂

  2. Good points, Avily! My son was all excited about getting a new sister (when I was expecting her). But then, we didn’t have any of THOSE books…

    There are six years between them. He wanted a sibling so badly! He was very tired of being an only child.

    It took about two months of being woken up every night by her crying for the shine to wear off, and for him to ask us to please ‘return to sender.’ 🙂 And even then, he really was joking.

    They were each other’s best playmate for about 7-8 years after that, and even now that he’s married, they’re still quite close.

  3. I love this attitude. You are absolutely correct in the way the world seems to set the family up for disappointment over the new addition. My biggest regret is not letting the older ones love on the baby more, mostly because I read too much negativity and projected it onto them. You’ve made me wonder what other areas am I holding back in because of this attitude? Congratulations on your latest blessing! You are doing a great job Mama!

  4. I think it is a wise thing at least if I were a parent, to keep the siblings in the know of what is going on each step of the way in the pregnancy . And to involve them in expressing their feelings about the new change that will take place and without making it obvious, as children are so perceptive. But in making them feel as important as they ever were . It can be threatening to their insecurities to feel they are being shifted lower on the totem pole. So I think communication and involvement on this baby before snd after. And being sure the siblings have the positive reinforcement they need to not cause a jealousy . Even using the new baby to help them help with their new baby . Even to the point of helping them see what mom and dad went through when they were babies .
    Yisraela

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