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Dr. Gerald Brown Oct 3, 2018

Becoming an effective mediator for sibling rivalry using RESPECT

With the late passing of Aretha Franklin I was reminded of one of my favorite songs

The rules of sibling rivalry seem to always have some universal themes among them.  Competing for mom and dad’s attention (positively or negatively), trying to outdo one another in school, sports, or home responsibilities, assertion of power within the family unit, lack of RESPECT for one another, negative parental role models, etc. and the list goes on.  How can we as fathers instill RESPECT for all family members and RESPECT for oneself at the same time?  This can be a challenge.  I recently had a Latino father and son in my office and I witnessed the two of them mired in a power struggle.  I did not intervene and tried to create the conditions for dad to assert himself and demand to be treated with RESPECT.  Dad ultimately decided that he would take son’s cell phone [for his academic inconsistency and negative attitude away] right then and there and shortly thereafter ensued a minor physical tussle until dad successfully obtained possession of said cell phone.  In that moment I also encouraged dad to assign additional corrective action due to son’s insolence and disRESPECT.  The agreed upon action was for son to do 100 sit ups in session to aid him in remembering that RESPECTing his father was an important ingredient in this family’s culture and functioning.  After this critical session the son has treated his dad, mom, and younger brother with a lot more RESPECT and has begun to believe the daily affirmations that are assigned to him that you can read at the end of this posting.

I believe we as fathers have to set the tone for RESPECT and self-RESPECT in order for our children to respect each other and themselves.   Here are some strategies to assist in garnering RESPECT and minimizing the rivalry that may engulf a family’s cultural, emotional, psychological, and social functioning:

1. Make sure your children know they’re each unique.

Recognize the salient and positive differences in your children.  Make sure they hear and understand this when you are making your points.  Siblings have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps one child excels in math and science while the other has an interest towards dance, art, and music. Recognize each child’s strengths [especially one on one] and ask them weekly what new talents have you discovered of yourself lately?

2. Don’t compare your children.

Parents often use statements like, “if you were only more like your brother.” This of course is a poor attempt to motivate their child(ren). Unfortunately, all this cultivates is a negative connotation with a sibling and a deeper feeling of resentment within the rivalry.

3. Encourage your children to try different and separate activities.

Enrolling your children in the same extracurricular activities might sound like a good idea at first, but it definitely encourages rivalry. For example, if two brothers join the same soccer team, one is bound to be more talented than the other. When the brother sees the other excelling where he languishes, this can cause feelings of bitterness and animosity. Try involving your children in different activities [e.g. one in sports; the other piano lessons]where they each can have their own opportunity to flourish.

4. Don’t play favorites.

A child will notice when a parent favors a specific sibling. Maybe this sibling gets seconds of dinner or gets to pick their favorite ice cream place more often just because. As a parent, your personality may not match that of one of your children, but it is your responsibility to treat all of your children as equally as possible. When parents choose favorites with a child, the other one will begin feeling devalued and unloveable.

5. Let your children know that friends come and go, but siblings are forever.

In life, your child will change schools, friends, interests, pets, and even homes.  One of the harder changes for children is when some friends are no longer friends and they have to make new ones for various reasons (moving, new school, etc.).  A child may have a friend for five or six or ten years, but they will have a sibling forever. Emphasize to your children that being family is a bond that lasts a lifetime, so no matter how much they may antagonize each other, at the end of the day, they will be siblings forever. 


Always remember to tell your child the following each day:

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Love yourself
  3. You were born for special reasons
  4. Look for ways to help others today
  5. Your primary purpose is to discover what your unique talents are (that no one else in the world has)


Doc Brown

If you would like to learn more about me or my practice Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting, PLLC and have questions feel free to visit my website as well as read my Inner Compass Blog.  My new book Abandoned to PhD: Integrating meaning and resilience in everyday life has been recently published and if you would like to review and purchase please visit


Dr. Gerald Brown (Doc Brown) is owner of Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting PLLC in Cornelius, NC and Statesville, NC.  He is passionate about fatherhood issues, immigrant concerns, and specializes in trauma work.  Doc Brown has presented at various conferences and has a multitude of experience training organizations and corporations in diversity and multicultural resilience.  He believes in helping individuals, couples, and families find meaning and integrate that meaning with various resiliencies in order to live purposefully and vibrantly.  He is married with two daughters ages 15 and 7. 
















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