“Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal, until they get together.” (Sam Levenson)
Linda Sunshine rightly observes that your sibling is the only creature on earth who shares your heritage, history, environment, DNA, and bone structure. Thus, naturally, it is a very special blessing of Allah (swt) to cherish.
When we think of our childhood days, some of us smile reliving the mischief, tantrums, attention-seeking gimmicks, peals of laughter, and pranks on undesirable characters. Others may frown with hurt of remembering the favouritism we faced, the unfair comparisons that were drawn, the threats and bullying of older siblings we bore, the anger and resentment we felt upon arrival of a younger sibling, and the share of love we deserved and never got from our parents.
It is impossible to find someone who did not feel a certain level of rivalry with a sibling at some point and time in life. So it is a natural emotion.
The Quran tells us two famous stories of sibling rivalry: one of Habeel and Qabeel and the other – of Prophet Yaqoob’s sons. For us, as parents, these stories grant comfort of knowing that not always the animosity between siblings may be caused by misconduct of parents. Otherwise, prophets would not have to brave such trials. At times, no matter how hard the parents try, some kids just refuse to get along. In such cases, it is best to try sensible measures and keep praying to Allah (swt) Al-Wadood to plant love in the hearts of siblings. After all, their hearts are between Allah’s (swt) fingers.
Adele Faber, a specialist in child education, offers yet another angle to child-rearing and some more solace to those parents who are constantly haunted by siblings at each other’s throats: “From their struggles to establish dominance over each other, siblings become tougher and more resilient. From their endless rough-housing with each other, they develop speed and agility. From their verbal sparring, they learn the difference between being clever and hurtful. From the normal irritation of living together, they learn how to assert themselves, defend themselves and compromise. And sometimes of their envy of each other’s special abilities they become inspired to work harder, persist and achieve.”
Family norms are of most importance. If the parents draw up some rules that would govern the family, it makes matters relatively saner. Such rules as: whatever food comes into the house, it needs to be equally shared, unless someone refuses it willingly. All must mind their P’s and Q’s; hence, there is no respite for verbal abuse. Empathy holds high. Cruel and unkind behaviour will not be tolerated at any cost. Respect for all and both ways: from top to bottom and from youngest to the eldest. And, of course, parents will model the desired behaviour first and foremost.
Siblings have played such a defining role in history. Baby Musa’s (as) sister followed him, overseeing his safety as he rode in a box over the waves. Haroon (as) supported Musa (as) as a prophet and a brother against the Pharaoh.
All in all, this is a beautiful relationship that can fortify you against your fears. Parents only need to learn to give each child his or her space to grow, develop, explore and learn. The more normal and rational the parents are, the more good-natured, competition-free and content the kids will be.