“My 4- and 8-year-old are closer now than they were before the pandemic – I hear the sounds of giggling… But the more time my girls spend together, the more they fight, too. You can’t avoid fighting… Just because sibling rivalry is to be expected does not mean there aren’t ways to mitigate it.” J. Grose, The New York Times, January 2021
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
EXCERPT: The Psychology Behind Sibling Rivalry, By Jessica Grose, The New York Times, January 2021
“The most common battlegrounds for my kids are perceived injustices and jockeying for position. The most absurd instance of the latter was when we were waiting to get flu shots this past fall. The girls got into a brawl over who received the first shot. My older daughter “won” that argument, but it was only as she was walking toward the pharmacist’s door that she realized a shot was not actually a prize.
On days when we are trapped in the house together and their screaming matches reach operatic levels, their dad and I worry we did something horribly wrong as parents to encourage this volume of strife. But according to Jeanine Vivona, a professor of psychology at the College of New Jersey who has studied sibling rivalry, ‘competition with siblings is just a fact of life. And we, as people with siblings and people with children, can just try to manage it as best we can.’
Observational studies have shown that sibling conflict may happen up to eight times an hour. Other research finds that pairs of sisters tend to be the closest, and that sibling dyads that include a brother have the most conflict.
‘Conflict does decrease into adolescence; it sort of levels off,’ said Mark Ethan Feinberg, a research professor of health and human development at Pennsylvania State University. ‘Early and middle childhood are particularly difficult times for sibling aggression.’
As a study that Feinberg co-authored notes, the book of Genesis, which includes the ‘founding stories of the Western psyche,’ is dripping with tales of murderous and covetous siblings, like Cain and Abel and Jacob and Esau…dastardly deeds, conflict over parental love is so profound that hundreds of years ago, when child mortality was much higher, children under 5 with close-in-age siblings were more likely to die… While most siblings aren’t fighting for actual scraps, psychologically, sibling rivalry serves a developmental purpose: It helps children figure out what is unique and special about themselves, otherwise known as ‘differentiation.’ Read the entire article for five suggestions from the experts to handle squabbling sibs.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. Examine any photos, then create a list of words and ideas that you and your group members think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The most absurd instances are ones for getting attention.
- We did something horribly wrong as parents to encourage this volume of strife.
- The girls got into a brawl over who received the first shot.
- Some dastardly deeds, in the Bible are centered around sibling rivalry.
- This knowledge certainly puts my kids’ fights over who got more ice cream into perspective.
- Most siblings don’t continue to fight into adult age.
- Psychologically, sibling rivalry serves a developmental purpose.
- Just because sibling rivalry is to be expected does not mean there aren’t ways to mitigate it.
- Praise them in public and punish them in private.
- Children have a tendency to get twitchy when they’re cooped up.
Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
Try too/to find moments where/wear everyone can came/come together. You’re/Yourkids/kids’ temperaments and personalities may be/bee similar, oar/or they may not/knot. They may both love/loves dance, ore/or one loves/love dance an/and the other just wants/wantto/two play chess. One might bee/be rigid, and the other is an/a free spirit.
Reading: Identify TheSpeakers
Directions: Read the following quotes from the speakers in the article. Then identify the speakers.
- “Competition with siblings is just a fact of life. And we, as people with siblings and people with children, can just try to manage it as best we can.”
- “Conflict does decrease into adolescence; it sort of levels off,”
- “Early and middle childhood are particularly difficult times for sibling aggression
- “Hundreds of years ago, when child mortality was much higher, children under 5 with close-in-age siblings were more likely to die.”
- “Figure out what sets them off. Pay attention to what tends to happen before conflict breaks out,”
III Post Reading
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Do you have sisters or brothers?
- Do you get along with them? Why or why not?
- According to the article what are some of the themes in the Bible involving siblings?
- What is the famous story of sibling rivalry from the Bible? Do you know the story?
- Why were children under 5 with close-in-age siblings more likely to die hundreds of years ago?
- Explain the developmental purpose that sibling rivalry serves.
- What are the five suggestions from experts to handle sibling rivalry?
- When should parents criticize their children? According to Hunter, what is the advantage of this?
Directions: List three new ideas that you’ve learned about the topic from the reading, two things that you did not understand in the reading, and one thing you would like to know that the article did not mention. Share your responses with your class.