In a normal family (I am not a social worker and I don’t have a degree in psychology and I am not trained in psychiatry) the parents can’t help favor one of their children. There are many reasons.
One of the children may be more athletic than the others. One of the children may be more artistic than the others. One of the children may be smarter than the others. Try as they might, the parents can’t hide their feelings for the favorite child, and children unerringly can sense their parents’ feelings.
That brings me to Jacob and Esau. In Chapter 25 of this week’s Torah portion, Toldot, verse 28, the Torah says, “Isaac favored Esau because he [the medieval commentators unanimously say the pronoun “he” is referring to Isaac] had a taste for game [venison], but Rebecca favored Jacob. [JPS translation].”
The Hebrew verbs respectively say “Vaye-ehav” and “ohevet.” I am not going to discuss Biblical grammar (about which I don’t know anything more than a smidgin), but Biblical verbs have two tenses: perfect (completed action) and imperfect (ongoing action). “Vaye-ehav” is a completed action, but the medieval commentator Hizkuni (Rabbi Hezekiah ben Manoah, who lived in the early part of the 13th century) said that Isaac loved Esau only when Esau brought game for his father. “Ohevet” is an ongoing action, and this is one of rare occasions (maybe the only) the verb is conjugated in the present tense.
So Esau is the disfavored son, and the Torah reinforces his disfavored status when Rebecca expresses scorn for the Hittite women whom Esau married in 27:46. (The Torah says that Esau’s marriages were a source of bitterness to his parents, 26:35.) So that’s why Rebecca engineered the deception of Isaac.
There are ways to stop sibling rivalry. Many of the ways were not available in Biblical times, but there were analogous things. You can consult https://www.paparentandfamilyalliance.org/post/addressing-sibling-resentment-on-national-sibling-s-day?gclid=CjwKCAjwiY6MBhBqEiwARFSCPsHI18y2Oj1fNacHraunC6Kou_FQXqudb8DVOeRahCqlw53P_Jm-zxoCpmoQAvD_BwE. It was posted on National Sibling’s Day. If you have children, you might want to use these tips:
I read a book called Siblings without Rivalry and it was great. It talks about how most rivalry stems from needing attention.
When one child says “Mom, so & so took my pencil.” Instead of saying our natural reaction ‘Stop being a tattletale.” Or “Give it back.” the book explains that we need to just be empathic.
“Oh, he took your pencil? That probably hurt your feelings.” They just want to feel valued. That was all that it took for me to see a huge turn around in our kids.
It works. It really does. Just relate to them, listen to them, be empathetic. They will handle the rest themselves.
Since most of the arguments happen when I’m not right there, I end up being the judge. The problem is that I can’t pick when it is he said/she said, so I have to go off of who I think is right. I do not like to do this… at all. If I don’t have all of the facts, they are treated equally. Usually, it ends in everyone facing the consequences (which is usually doing a boring & hard chore that they dislike)
Take away anything that the children fight over. I tell our kids “If you are arguing over something, I will take it. I will never let something come in-between your relationship.” I do just that- I take it away and do not give it back until the following day. I do not give any warnings (I used to, but now they know the rules). If I hear fighting, it is gone/turned off/taken away and I ALWAYS remind them why: “We don’t let anything come between family.”
Take away electronics. It works like a charm! Seriously- just read this post on no electronics for the week to hear more. I can’t tell you enough about why I love this week, but I will say that the kids like it just as much. Yes, the beginning of the week is hard, but by the end, they are playing and happy, and not one child is asking for their electronics.
Note: I do allow family tv shows and movies- as long as they are sharing the experience with someone else (like watching a Netflix series at night together), I am OK with it.
When we did give them back, we immediately started using our Chores for Screentime Cards.
If a sibling puts a sibling down, they have to offer a compliment or way to build that person up. A good ratio is 1:3. If you put someone down once, you must say three things that are encouraging and kind to build them back up. Example: Child A says: “You are so annoying.” to Child B.
Child B is sad. Parent overhears it and reminds Child A to offer three “put-ups” or kind words.
Child A: “You are fun to play with at the basketball court. You are good at sharing your toys. I like how you work hard at baseball practice.”
It can be hard for them to think of new compliments and not always go back to the generic ones like “You are nice,” but they will get the hang of it.
Tip: Another way of offering compliments & kind thoughts is through a kindness journal.
Over the past year, I gave each of our kids a “Kindness Journal” (just a small notebook). It is used as a way for their siblings to write something kind to that child.
(Example: “Ethan, you worked hard biking up that hill yesterday. Way to go!” It’s simple- they write one thought each day for one sibling. We rotate the books. It’s been wonderful!
Sometimes, the best thing that we can do is to teach our children to work it out. Give them the skills to resolve conflict and then let them do it. When our kids come to me with a tattle, I remind them that if they can’t work it out, I will be forced to take action, which means taking things away or giving everyone consequences. (Unless someone is being hurt – that’s a non-negotiation/must-tell-mom thing).
“Children are spending more and more time in age-segregated activities. Meanwhile, houses have gotten bigger. Although many kids still share a room (as mine do), increasing numbers of children sleep on their own. With less need to resolve conflict and less time available in which to do it, some disputes may fester longer than they need to.” – KJ Dell’Antonia
Using our Reward System. If you have not read about our Cotton Ball Reward System, I would suggest trying it. It encourages our kids to do nice things for others. Focusing on the positive works!
Just as you finished reading about time together, I want to remind you that your children also need some space. Independent play or time to relax is important for your child (and for you). Offering alone time is a great way to let your children have time to reflect, to have quiet, and to miss each other a bit.
I can usually tell when they need time to themselves and this is when I give them a quiet activity, like reading or playing in their rooms. A 30-minute ‘daily reading’ time is a perfect break in the day for everyone to sit alone and just relax. If children are too young to read, drawing is a great outlet.
It is so important for our kids to hear us being grateful. Every day, when I pray with our kids, I tell God that I am thankful that they have one another. I am thankful that they have the love and friendship of a sibling. I am thankful that they have built-in best friends. I say this out loud, every single day, in front of our children. (I usually include their cousins in this prayer, too. Cousins that are as close as these six are practically siblings!♥)
Children love to live up to our expectations & act like we say they act. Remember… our words become our child’s inner voice. If we focus on the positive, they will follow, rising to the occasion, proving what you said to be true, so let it be good.
“We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” — Winnie The Pooh