Have you ever seen a litter of newborn animals nursing at their mother or eating from a common bowl of food? There always seems to be a few babies who are a little bigger or more aggressive, nudging their smaller siblings out of the way to get at more of the food, right? Sometimes little fights happen as they're all eating, and suddenly...HISS! BARK! SQUEAL! This is sibling rivalry at its most basic. The animals are competing with each other for food because there's only so much of it.
Obviously, you and your brothers and sisters are not the same as animals, and hopefully you don't have to worry about food running out. But there IS something that brothers and sisters feel like they have to compete for, and that is LOVE.
Unlike food, love shouldn't run out. In a perfect world, adults should be able to give an endless supply of love to the children they're caring for. Sometimes, though, what matters is not how much love they're giving, but how they're showing it. The two most important ways for a parent or guardian to show love for a child are:
1. ATTENTION: The amount of time a parent can spend with you, and the quality of that time.
2. APPROVAL: The appreciation, happiness, or pride an adult shows towards what you do. Someone can do this through words of praise, like saying "Great job!," or by giving gifts like toys, clothes, money, or special freedoms.
You are an individual. You're not exactly the same person as your brother or sister. Because of this, the adults in your family may give different kinds of attention and approval to different siblings.
Take Sabrina and Bobby, for instance. Sabrina's having trouble in school, so her mom spends an hour each night helping her with homework. Bobby's a whiz at homework, but he's trying to get better at soccer, so he and his dad spend time every weekend kicking the ball around. Sabrina sometimes feels hurt that her dad doesn't do that with her, and Bobby feels that if he does ever need help with homework, his mom won't have time for him.
When Sabrina does well on a spelling test, their parents make a big deal out of it; Bobby feels jealous because they never do that for him. When Bobby scores a goal at a soccer game, Mom and Dad are totally psyched...and Sabrina feels like it's a slap in the face because she's never scored a goal in anything.
Even though their parents are giving them both attention and approval, Sabrina and Bobby find themselves in a classic sibling rivalry!
Next: The Jealousy Monster!