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Dealing with Siblings: The Good and The Bad

Posted Feb 17 2010 10:02pm

Becca is a 16 year-old from West Palm Beach, FL. She loves to cook and travel, and she would like to study International Business in the future.

From Venus and Serena to Peyton and Eli to George and Jeb, the number of famous siblings is constantly growing. In Hollywood, brothers and sisters like the Jonas Brothers and the Olsen twins have made big names for themselves, and the political and sports arenas are also filled with siblings. Whether sisters and brothers are famous or just part of the family next door, sibling rivalry is prominent virtually everywhere.

Sibling rivalry arises because of competition within close quarters. Growing up, kids are often vying for attention from their parents, and one way to gain this recognition is to outshine their brothers and sisters. There are certainly stereotypes about birth order, but these clearly vary on a case-by-case basis. Sibling rivalry should be treated like any other type of competitiveness: It can be healthy in moderation, but too much will be problematic.

There are a number of benefits to sibling rivalry. First, it drives each person to achieve their best and reach their full potential. Even if the means to the end are perhaps not the purest, this does not detract from the fact that they may yield great results. In other words, if one boy practices a sport so that he can beat his older brother’s record, it does not take away from the fact that he’s a good player. Another benefit to sibling rivalry is that it gives everybody a chance to discover what his or her strengths are. Each sibling will learn, through the competition, what they can do best. Hopefully this will serve as motivation to pursue further accomplishment in the future.

Clearly, sibling rivalry can have negative effects as well. It can be extremely discouraging for one sibling who may not be as successful as the others. Parents who do not divide their time equally amongst their children may spark further contempt, and competition can reach the point where it puts unnecessary strains on relationships. If the rivalry begins to become more important than family bonds, tensions arise and the issue may not be resolved.

I have two younger brothers, one of whom is two years younger than I am. He and I are constantly competing, but I sincerely feel that it’s a healthy competition that actually makes us work harder. I think that as the oldest child, I have the responsibility to do my absolute best and set the bar high. Although this might make the initial job more difficult for my brothers, it makes them work harder than they would have otherwise. If I achieve success, it only motivates them to push themselves to try to beat me. In the end, however, we know that our relationships are the most important thing.

Whenever the Williams sisters or the Manning brothers play each other professionally, they play to win. There’s no doubt, though, that they also play for fun and to continue the sibling rivalry from their younger years. If brothers and sisters treat this rivalry as a way to achieve personal growth, it can be one of the most important sources of motivation they will ever find throughout their lifetimes.

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