"The root of human conflict is sibling rivalry: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and now Joseph and his brothers.
Joseph has the misfortune of being the youngest. He symbolises the Jewish condition. His brothers are older and stronger than he is. They resent his presence. They see him as a trouble maker. The fact that their father loves him only makes them angrier and more resentful. They want to kill him. In the end they get rid of him in a way that allows them to feel a little less guilty. They concoct a story that they tell their father, and they settle down to life again. They can relax. There is no Joseph to disturb their peace any more.
And now they are facing a stranger in a strange land and it simply does not occur to them that this man may be Joseph. As far as they are concerned, there is no Joseph. They don’t recognise him now. They never did. They never recognised him as one of them, as their father’s child, as their brother with an identity of his own and a right to be himself."
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Commentary on Parshat Mikketz (5771)
...Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father. (3) Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented tunic. (4) And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him.
How can siblings tell that their parents might have favorites?
Reuben is the oldest. Do you think birth order matters in how siblings solve (or create) fights?
What do you think of Judah's approach? Was it better or worse than Reuben's?
Why do you think Joseph keeps pretending he doesn't recognize his siblings?
How often do you think sibling rivalry carries on when you are a grown up?
(1) Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone withdraw from me!” So there was no one else about when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. (2) His sobs were so loud that the Egyptians could hear, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace. (3) Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still well?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dumfounded were they on account of him. (4) Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come forward to me.” And when they came forward, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, he whom you sold into Egypt. (5) Now, do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me hither; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you.
(14) With that he embraced his brother Benjamin around the neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his neck. (15) He kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; only then were his brothers able to talk to him.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents do the following to help sibling rivalry.
"Remember that each child's needs are different.
Some parents feel it's important to treat their children the same way. Yet children often complain that things are "not fair" and that they are not receiving what the other sibling gets. Treating your children differently doesn't mean you are playing favorites. It's a way of showing that you appreciate how special they are.
While it's natural to notice differences between your children, try not to comment on these in front of them.
It is easy for a child to think that he is not as good or as loved as his sibling when you compare them. Remember, each child is special. Let each one know that.
As much as possible, stay out of your children's arguments.
While you may have to help younger children find ways to settle their differences, do not take sides. If your children try to involve you, explain that they need to figure out how to get along. Of course, you must get involved if the situation gets violent. Make sure your children know that such behavior is not allowed.
If you must get involved in your children's arguments, listen to all sides of the story. Also, give children privileges that are right for their ages and try to be consistent. If you allowed one child to stay up until 9:00 pm at 10 years of age, the other should have the same bedtime when he is 10.
Respect your child's privacy.
If it is necessary to punish or scold, do it with the child alone in a quiet, private place. Do not embarrass your child by scolding him in front of the others.
Family meetings can be a great way to work out sibling issues.
Some parents find that sharing some of their own experiences about growing up can help too. Just listening to your children can also help. Remember, this is their opportunity to learn about the give-and-take of human relationships."