• Erin Engelke

The Sibling Rivalry Surprise

When siblings fight, it's enough to send Moms to the looney bin. Why didn't anyone warn us it was gonna be so hard?


Before having my children, I had this perfect vision in my head of how much they would love and adore each other. Build forts side by side. Ride their bikes up and down the driveway for hours. And use their imaginations to lovingly create works of art….while holding hands.


Ok, so that may be a bit much.


But I did wholeheartedly believe my kids would like each other, enjoy playing together and

appreciate the fact that their mom and dad gave them a sibling.


No one told me to expect anything otherwise.


Instead, I gave birth to three children, the two oldest who are like oil and water. One is a rule-follower, likes order, peace and quiet. His sister, on the other hand, marches to her own drum…(or beats that drum as loudly as she can throughout the house). And that drum generally includes her dictating who and what should be done according to her plan. In other words, she’s bossy, free-spirited and downright controlling.


Consequently, I have a son and daughter who hate each other…and who openly admit their disdain for the other. I truthfully didn’t see it coming and no one warned me about it in advance. I may have foregone producing a sibling or two if I had known.


I knew I was in over my head when, in hopes of addressing the problem, asked my son to draw a picture of how he felt about his sister. The result was an image just graphic enough that it took my breath away. How could he seriously feel this way about her? We worked hard to raise our children to love everyone and to be kind to those who are mean to you. Somehow we must have missed the mark.


Once I picked myself up off the floor and calmly (on the outside anyway) screeched for my husband to make his way upstairs to show him the graphic illustration of hate, we talked to our son. Why do you hate your sister? What does she do that makes you crazy? And surprisingly, when it all came down to it, it was a problem that was easily solved. He didn’t hate her…he hated the way she messed with his stuff. Took ownership over his belongings. Barged into his room.


We listened to his frustrations, and he felt affirmed and validated. And we made simple changes to address those frustrations – no sisters allowed in his room, no playing with his toys without permission first. Our efforts weren’t a perfect, or long term, remedy to the problem because the hate still rears its ugly head every once in awhile. And we know there are still days (and many more to come) where they will hate each other again…and again…and again.


I hate it for them. Even worse, I hate not knowing how to handle it every single time.

I’ve come to realize that it requires me not allowing my feelings to get hurt when my vision is not realized…and accepting that sibling rivalry is normal.

My sole job instead is to help them discover what they have in common and nurture those attributes. And listen when they just need to vent.


Then be reassured in those moments when they do something sweet, out of the blue, for the other one.


And know, deep down, their love for each other does exist.

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