Siblings share fears and dreams in safety.

What Positive and Negative Contributions Do Siblings Make in a Young Child's Life?

by Nannette Richford

It may be difficult to think about the positive aspects of siblings while breaking up World War III in your living room, but rest assured, even siblings who fight -- and they all do -- gain a host of positive benefits from each other. Dealing with siblings helps children learn communication and relationships skills and prepares them for social interaction with others. The negative aspects of having siblings may surprise you, as they often have more to do with how you react to and treat siblings than the kids themselves.

1. Communication Skills

Believe it or not, all that screaming and yelling at her brother when your little one doesn’t get her way has positive aspects along with the negative. Over time, she will learn that there are better ways to get what she wants than yelling -- and you can thank her sibling for teaching her that. Because siblings, especially young siblings who are close in age, don’t typically back down when the other kicks up a fuss, young children eventually learn that screaming and yelling isn’t the best way to solve their problems. Having a sibling can help a small child learn how to better communicate with others and resolve conflict.

2. Relationship Experience

Other than the relationship with their parents, sibling relationships are children’s first experience with relationships, and are likely to be the longest lasting relationships of their lives. They soon learn that you can love someone even when you are mad, that anger isn’t permanent -- although you may question that at times -- and that working together can be beneficial. This is evident every time they become co-conspirators to work their magic on you to reach a common goal, such as ice cream or a new toy.

3. Parental Reactions and Attitudes

How you feel about your children and how fair you are in your reactions to them isn’t as important as how your children perceive your motives. When children believe their parents favor one child over the other they may develop feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, which can follow them into adulthood. Maintaining consistency and fairness is an important task for all parents, but becomes more so when there is more than one child in the family. Resisting the urge to compare your children or praise one for traits the other simply hasn’t acquired goes a long way toward maintaining fairness and helps the siblings maintain a better relationship with their parents and each other.

4. Love and Attention

Many parents expecting a second child worry that there won’t be enough love to go around or that their first child will suffer from a lack of attention. Although it’s true that your oldest will receive less individual attention from you, and may express jealousy for a while, having an instant playmate more than makes up for the lack of time from you. Not only will his sibling be ready and willing to play when you are busy or otherwise involved, but he will learn a host of skills from his sibling as well.

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