That rivalry exists is a matter of nature, but could it be the missing link to most student behavior problems? The instinct for survival guides all living things to cooperate when necessary and to compete when necessary. With sibling rivalry, children aren’t competing for that last grain of food to stave off starvation; they are competing for that last moment of attention, that nod of approval, or gesture of affection from a loved one to stave off emptiness, loneliness.
In the classroom, student behavioral problems often arise when rivalries raise the frustration and anxiety levels of the sibling students. Students act out against the structured environment of the classroom in order to gain attention. Since, as the old saying goes: there is no such thing as bad publicity, at the very least, the student acting out will take away attention from his or her sibling. And sibling rivalry can still cause student behavioral problems even if the siblings are years apart in school, as teachers as well as parents play into those anxieties and frustrations with comparisons and expectations that seem unfair to the siblings.
The good news is that there are some things parents and teachers can do to alleviate some of the student behavioral problems associated with sibling rivalry. By modifying their own behavior towards the siblings, parents and teachers can modify the behavior of the siblings. For example, by addressing and stopping unfair comparisons, by praising all cooperative efforts by the siblings, and by simply encouraging open conversations with the siblings about their feelings. These efforts can improve behavior in the classroom and leave the problems where they belong, namely on tests and quizzes.
A little rivalry is healthy as competition does bring out the urge to do better and to succeed. By being vigilant and honest, parents, teachers and siblings can stop student behavioral problems before they cause hurt feelings, bruised egos, and a lifetime of resentment.