Conor is a 17-year-old from Boston, MA and enjoys sports, history and music and he can’t wait to correspond with you.
As anyone with siblings knows, it would be exceptionally rare for one’s teen years to be lacking resentment, competition, and even jealousy or hatred among teenage siblings. As is often seen, when a family consists of more than one child, as many do, it is rare that one will find two or more siblings who are overly similar and that get along perfectly, especially when those siblings are aged relatively close to each other. Similarly, one can often identify the different strengths and weaknesses of each child upon early examination. For example, teenagers who have older siblings that generally avoid trouble and are focused on achievements and “straight-shooting” will sometimes rebel against the reputation gained by their older sibling. And on the other hand, teenagers who have older siblings that tend to get in trouble and do not earn such a great reputation will sometimes attempt to avoid earning the same reputation by staying out of trouble and choosing a different path than his or her older sibling.
Now, of course this is not always the case. Many times teens who have older siblings lead a very similar life to that of their older siblings whether that life would be considered envious or frowned upon. The reason for these similarities is typically rooted in parenting. When a teenager makes, what many would perceive to be smart decisions throughout his or her early life, younger siblings will often be encouraged and nearly pressured to follow that same path, a fact that ultimately yields positive outcomes. Conversely, when the eldest child in a family carves out an adolescence of mistakes and confrontation, parents tend to become less active and almost give up on attempting to changes that child’s behavior, resulting in any younger siblings to lack the support to avoid the path paved by their older sibling. So, in the end, it is essential for parents to work hard to make sure that older children set good examples for younger siblings who should receive parental support and guidance in the hopes of following along enviable paths through the teenage years.
But the mystery regarding teenage siblings lies in the split mentioned in the first paragraph. Why do younger siblings rebel against the success and safe paths set out by older siblings? And why do younger siblings occasionally try to rid themselves of the negative labels placed on them due to mistakes made by older brothers and sisters? The answer is not so simple but can best be explained through the concept of sibling rivalry. Whether or not a teenager’s older sibling gained a good or bad reputation, these younger sibling teenagers often believe themselves to be in constant competition with their older counterparts for the spotlight. I can speak to this idea and support it wholly, as the oldest of two boys, I became an above average student from an early age and am often focused on subject matter somewhat different than many teenagers, my younger brother often resorted (and still does to his day) to acting out and being a sort of clown to direct parental attention toward himself because he was not as good a student as I was. This is not to say that my brother is any sort of “problem child” or even a “bad kid”, it simply means that he tends to have trouble taking many things seriously and is occasionally willing to bring down the spirits of others to bring attention to himself. While my brother’s actions may not be overly harmful or troubling, there is a thin line between attention-seeking and danger because as teenagers increasingly feel that they lack attention given to other siblings, they will tend to join any group of kids their age who accept them and give hem the attention they believe they lack and also teenagers are overly willing to perform actions that can be physically and emotionally harmful to themselves and to those around them, if they believe that these actions will gain them attention. So parents, it is extremely important that you show overwhelming amounts of attention and support to all your children and that you encourage each and every one of your teenager’s to choose a path of compassion, safety and openness in order to avoid troubling cases of sibling rivalry.
If you liked this article get more Radical Parenting in our new book: Do I Get My Allowance Before or After I’m Grounded?