Family dynamics is always a very interesting topic of discussion. I grew up in a single parent home with two brothers; I was the middle child and only girl. We fought playfully and– oh boy– do we have some stories, but we never really experienced sibling rivalry. I guess because my mother didn’t support any competition between us. Each of us was celebrated and one was never put higher than the other. Nevertheless, my brothers have always said that I was the favorite child. Probably because I was the only girl, but I really beg to differ.
Now I have three girls. The older two are only about 20 months apart and we have experienced some sibling rivalry or sometimes a Quinnie civil war. Two pre-teen girls is a lot of estrogen! It all began when my two oldest girls started going to the same elementary school.
My oldest daughter, Lady K, has always soaked up any and everything like a sponge. She loved to learn and was a very easy baby. She just looked at you and smiled. When she started elementary school all her teachers loved her. My second daughter, Lady B, has her own personality. She is intelligent and learns well also, but she is a very social child and speaks her mind and is very strong-welled. She will do her school assignments, but she will let the teachers know if the assignment met her standards or if the class room is too hot cold for her liking. So depending on the teacher, there may be some strain in the teacher-student relationship!
Well it so happened, both girls had the same teacher for the 2nd grade. My oldest daughter, naturally had the teacher first, then my middle daughter had her a year later. Well the teacher started comparing Lady B to Lady K. She would make comments like, “Are you sure you all are sisters? Lady K was so sweet and polite.” I didn’t learn about this until the middle of the school year. I noticed Lady B didn’t want to go to school and had very strong opinions about her teacher.
Things also started to change at home. They started to argue and even would try to fight. I would stop all arguments and physical fights — reminding them they’re sisters and one day they will be each other’s best friends.
But I suppose outside of the house, the girls were continuously being compared to one another. This didn’t help their family dynamic. All competition starts from wanting to be the best and wanting accolades. If one sister gets more attention for being a good student and the other struggles with certain subjects, it makes the competitive spirit grow.
I discussed sibling rivalry with my mother, who is a retired school guidance director. She said, “All sibling rivalry comes from the natural need to belong and for security. Each child wants attention and wants to feel loved. All rivalry can be dissipated, depending on the parents and the family environment. If the parents promote competition between the siblings, it will only get worse and will continue into adulthood.”
All sibling rivalry comes from the natural need to belong and for security.
I was glad when Lady K finally went to middle school and Lady B could start having her own identity at school. Things were a little better…and then Lady K entered puberty – too many hormones!
They’ve shared a room their entire lives, so one day Lady K begged me to let her move in the guest room. So on a trail period, I said sure. I think spending time apart has actually helped their relationship. So when Lady B was ready for middle school, I decided they would not go to the same middle school, also. A lot of people thought I was crazy for making this decision. You will have to drive to two separate schools and do everything twice! But I know my girls. They’re two completely different children. Lady K is at a middle school that fits her educational talents and Lady B needs one to fit her talents.
I deserve high-five!
Lady K is thriving and learning to be her own person without having to look after her little sister. Lady B is learning who she is, away from living in the shadow of her “perfect” big sister. Lady B even mentioned, “Mom no one knows I have an older sister at school. I’m the only Quinnie!” So that’s confirmation I made the right decision. It’s more work for me, but I don’t mind it. My goal is to make sure each child is valued and feels important. Lady K still has her own room and now they actually take the time to meet in the family room and have girl talk. The sibling rivalry hasn’t stopped completely, but it’s 75% better.
So once again we have to be the parents, help our children see their siblings as partners – partners in this life journey. Competition is for the sports arena or the debate team, not in the family. Family is a focal center of support.
I always remind my daughters…one day you all will be off in college and won’t see each other every day, you’ll miss this family time. So make the best of it! They may roll their eyes, but they hear me. They see how I am with my brothers. They ask, “Why do you all always laugh so much when you all talk on the phone or see each other?” I tell them, we had a fun childhood! Now, we more or less have learned to let the other sibling be themselves and live their own lives, but we still remember that we’re family.
Carrice Quinnie is native of Columbus, Ga. She is a divorced, single-mother of three girls.