Sibling Rivalry Could Be Connected to Painful Memories

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 @ 1:17 PM

A few days ago while visiting family, our 8 and 11-year-old great nieces were doing homework and soon began fighting over a sparkly pencil. The older niece declared her plain pencil was boring and demanded her sister give her the pretty one. A heated debate, punch in the back and dramatic tears later, the problem was solved when I found a second sparkly pencil. Now, they each had their own. I felt pretty good about salvaging the crisis only to hear the girls gearing up for the next round over who wants the pink sparkly pencil vs. the red sparkly one.

About a half hour later, our 2 and 4-year-old great nephews arrived home from day care. Their tantrums began over who got the McQueen vs. the Thomas the Train sippy cups for their snack time.

And so it continues. These frequent childhood dilemmas become teaching moments about sharing, respect for others during conflict and problem-solving.

You'd think by adulthood, people would have learned these life lessons. Sadly, we often see this type of sibling rivalry morph into divorce rivalry during mediations. Now emotional arguments center on decisions like who gets the dog, the hutch, the vacation home and more.

The conflict isn't about "the stuff." More often it's about getting one's way, hurting the other spouse, a memory connected to the item. It takes a skillful, insightful divorce mediator to peel back the emotional onion and get to the core of the problem so that the childhood concepts of sharing, respect and problem solving can be addressed.

Written by Patti Bertschler