Sibling Rivalry: Teaching Kids to Respect One Another

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18 Nov 2014


This week’s parsha brings to light a recurring theme in Sefer Bereshit—sibling rivalry. We have seen it before with Kayin and Hevel, Yitzchak and Yishmael and now again with Yaakov and Esav.

We all know the famous saying, “maaseh avot siman l’banim,” (the actions of the forefathers are a symbol or sign for the children). In this case, I think the Torah is trying to tell us that sibling rivalry is a normal part of daily life, not a very fun part of normal family life, but normal nonetheless.

Once we acknowledge that most siblings do fight, we can stop getting so angry at them and instead use our energy to find ways to help them get along.

One way to do that is by teaching them to respect their sibling’s bad mood. I know that in my house when one child is crying or whining, their sibling might use that opportunity to tease them. They will say things like:

“You are such a crybaby!”

“Why do you make such a big deal about everything?”

Or they will imitate the whining, which I personally find to be the most irritating. Needless to say their sibling’s heartlessness only exacerbates the problem.

But we can look at the bright side, it is a teachable moment. It is a great opportunity to teach them to respect their sibling’s bad mood. We can say:

“When one person in our family is in a bad mood, it is more helpful if we are kind then if we tease!”

“Sara is in a bad mood, something is really bothering her. She needs a little TLC. What can we do to help her?”

When kids are in the throes of a bad mood, or a crying jag, their frustration tolerance is low and they are more likely to lash out physically and hit when they are being teased.

It is helpful to point that out to the teaser:

“He does not like to be teased when he is in a good mood. He certainly does not like to be teased when he is in a bad mood. He looks like he is going to hit you. You better run and get out of his way.”

For good measure, you can also say to the cryer/whiner/kid in the bad mood:

“You can control yourself even if you are so hurt and frustrated with the whining. You don’t need to hit. Tell him you are in a bad mood and he needs to leave you alone!”

You can also preempt the whole situation by letting all the kids in your family know that their sibling is in a bad mood and can use some kindness:

“Sammy had a rough day. I saw that when he came in he was in a bad mood. Is anybody available to do his job tonight for him? Anyone have any other ideas on how we can help him out?”

Teaching kids to respect their sibling’s bad mood is a great life skill. One that they can use with all the relationships they may have in the future

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.