First and foremost, it is important to understand what makes up each unique family dynamic. There may be several factors that affect what is often called, psychological birth order - that may then have influences that affect your family. Some of these factors that affect birth order are things such as gender, spacing, physical/mental/emotional differences, a sibling death, or adoption. Looking at each individual birth order can help give a parent insight into what makes each child experience feelings of significance - and then also identify what makes them agitated causing them to fight. The following can be typical ways that birth order can influence our children:
may be identified as perfectionists, leaders, organized, critical, responsible, independent, and competitive. Oldest children seek to gain significance through being first or best in order to be important.
Middle born children
typically lack the privileges of the oldest or the benefits of the youngest child. They are squeezed in the middle. Middle born children may be overachievers or underachievers, depending on what their older siblings may or may not have achieved or accomplished. Middle born children often possess the mistaken belief that they must be different in order to be significant and important.
Finally, youngest born children
are typically pampered, charming, fun-loving, and creative. Youngest children possess the mistaken belief that they must catch up or outdo others to be significant.
When parents can identify what makes children feel significant it is easier to recognize what might be the underlying issues contributing to sibling rivalry. There are different levels of escalation to sibling rivalry with differing practical solutions to each level:
- Normal bickering:
a. Ignore it! (Go to a peaceful place internally)
b. Tell yourself the children are having an important experience in conflict resolution.
- Situation escalates and adult intervention may be helpful:
a. Acknowledge the children's feelings. (Ex: "You are very angry with you're brother right now.")
b. Reflect each child's point of view.
c. Describe the problem with RESPECT!
d. Express confidence in the children's ability to find their own solution.
e. Leave the room!
- Situation possibly dangerous:
a. Inquire (Is this real or play?)
b. Let the children know mutual play fighting/wrestling is permitted only if both are in agreement, otherwise NO!!!
- Dangerous situation: ADULT INTERVENTION NECESSARY
a. Describe what you see to the children.
b. Separate the children. (Faber & Mazlish, 1987).
Through identifying your children's birth order you will be better able to see what makes the child feel significant. Additionally, utilizing the sibling rivalry checklist will better allow you to assess the level of fighting and the intervention needed. This may minimize each child's negative feelings associated with their interactions with their siblings.