Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sibling Rivalry: a game in itself

For generations, siblings have been in constant competition. From the love their parents feel for them, to material goods that their parents purchase them...there has always been the aspect of the game within the relationship. Last week I overheard a conversation while sitting in a deli that got me thinking. I heard a mother speaking about her two children, and she was the one causing the need for competition. One would think a parent would want her children to feel that they are both great, and both have everything going for them...yet, this mother put her children up against each other. She described that Sarah, her oldest, was smart, studious, and funny. She was valedictorian of her high school class and was essentially brilliant. I thought to myself..."wow, thats great...talking up her daughter." However, what surprised me next, was that she spoke of her youngest, Rachel, as dumb, yet beautiful. "Rachel is not the brightest...but all the boys love her."

Now...I started thinking. What if her children knew she was saying this? The competition I'm sure they already feel was just confirmed by their own mother. What if Rachel wanted to do well in school, tried extremely hard, but just didn't have the confidence because her parents deemed her as "dumb"? And what if Sarah didn't want to be look at as the "funny" sister?

In my own family, my sister and I definitely have some sort of rivalry going on. I went/ go to a better college, but I always view my sister as prettier, and more fun to be around. Now...I think about if my parents say such things about us as this mother did. Would that create more competition between us? I don't know if my sister actually feels competition, and I don't really either. But when thinking about it and narrowing it down, there are always moments between siblings that feel competitive.

Do you think sibling rivalry exists?


  1. Hey Claudia,

    Very cool post on sibling rivalry. As the older brother to two younger siblings, I definitely feel the effects of sibling rivalry firsthand. One interesting thing I always think about when comparing myself to my 16-year old brother is how our parents feel about letting their children do certain things. For instance, I didn't start skiing until I was 8 years old, because my parents weren't sure that they wanted me going out on the mountain with an instructor or a group without them. However, after just a few short weeks of skiing, my 5 year old brother began joining me on the mountain, and within a few years he was a much better skiier than I was. He had the advantage of learning from a very young age, where I was more skeptical and afraid of the steep slopes since I did not learn until age eight. This certainly sparked a rivalry between my brother and I, and is just one example of instances like this occurring. I think your point makes complete sense - there are moments when sibling rivalry exists naturally, and others where it may fade into the background and not be as important.

    - Alex Jacobs

  2. I think that this is a great post. I have a younger brother and I know exactly how it feels to be upstaged by him. Similarly to Alex, I began snowboarding at a much earlier age than my little brother. However, the week he strapped on a board for the first time he was flying down the mountain like a pro. My brother also loves to argue. And he usually wins. Whenever a controversial topic comes up I am always sure to try and jump in and get my points across before him. We always have a little bit of competition but I actually kind of enjoy it. It keeps us close and we always have something to joke about. Sibling rivalry is natural, you're usually trying to impress parents. I also think it is healthy, I mean, who doesn't fight with their sibling every now and then?
    -Nicole Thompson

  3. I always though of sibling rivalry as something that was unavoidable, though not always negative. My sister and I could not be more different in most aspects of our lives. I was always the more studious one who balanced my work and play very well. I cannot draw, I am not creative, I hate nothing more than shopping. My sister on the other hand is creative, artsy, loves music, and could care less about her school work. I always say she's the cooler one, but that's because she is everything I am not.

    Without the same talents or interests, our sibling rivalry actually helps to bring out the best in each other. While school is not her "thing" she tries to still work hard to compete with my grades and my achievements and although she in younger, I try to compete with getting new music before her. She helps to bring out my creative side and I keep her motivated to work hard. While we learn the negatives of competition and we are told sibling rivalry can lead to poor self esteem, there are instances where it can work out to the benefit of both siblings.

  4. Hey Claudia.

    I definitely think sibling rivalries exist, but I don't think parents are the main instigators. Growing up my parents did not put pressure on me to compete with my younger sister, but rather they put pressure on both of us to succeed. They loved us both extremely much, and made sure we knew our worth to them and to each other. The pressure I believe comes mostly from the success of the older sibling. I have achieved a lot in my life (comparatively) and that has put pressure on my sister because I have set the standard that "needs" to be met. My parents don't necessarily put that pressure on my sister, but she can most certainly feel it.

    I also think that sibling rivalries become more intense when dealing with siblings of the same sex. The fact that I am a boy and my sister is a girl makes the idea of a rivalry somewhat stupid because there are certain thing that I can do that my sister can't and vice versa.

    In any case, I do believe that sibling rivalries exist, but the level of intensity and competition varies from case to case.

  5. While I understand what you are saying about sibling rivalry, my situation happens to be very unique. I am the youngest of a family of four. Considering I am the baby in the family and there is a large age gap between us, I did not experience this sibling rivalry. Instead I looked up to them and they were more like role models and served as parents to me. While my closest sibling is my brother who is five years older than me, I was always his side kick growing up. However, because i'm really competitive and self conscious I understand that if I had a sister close in age I probably would have experienced this. I understand as you so close in age with your sister how there were moments where you guys felt some competition.