School-aged & Teen Sibling Relationships
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School-aged & Teen Sibling Relationships
My older child is extremely jealous of my younger child. They are 9 and 6. The
younger one is outgoing and generally happy, but the older has a harder time socially
and is quite sensitive. She says things to me like ''you love her more'' or ''why don't you
love me?' We've always treated them equally, but they just seem to have different
temperments and the older one needs more reassurance. Here's my question: My
husband thinks it would be helpful to tell our older daughter (in confidence) that she's
his favorite. While of course this is not true, he thinks she needs to hear this and that
it would be beneficial. I don't agree, but wonder if anyone has any experience or
Telling the older child in private that she is the favorite will
backfire when she tells her younger sibling, and Daddy will not
be able to deny saying it. My 5 year old sometimes needs
reassurance that the 2 year old has not taken his place in my
heart. He seems soothed when I remind him he was our very first
baby, how excited we were when he was born, how he got Mommy and
Daddy to himself for 3 whole years, etc. The younger one for now
seems happy to hear that he is my newest baby, how excited we
were to have another baby, how he got to have a big
brother/playmate right from the start. It's hard, because you
can never do the same for them all the time, just let them know
there's room in your heart for both. We try on the weekends for
each child to have one-on-one time with each parent as well as
Your husband should not tell your daughter that she is
his ''favorite'' because that reinforces the idea that a parent
has favorites. I can guarantee you this idea will come back to
bite you in the butt. I read an article once that said instead
of telling siblings we love the 'equally' we should tell that
that we love them uniquely - let them know that they are
special and that the love we have for them is so special it is
unlike any love we have for anyone else, and that no one in the
world could take their place in our hearts. Seems like a good
approach to me.
Instead of calling your daughter your favorite, try saying frequently how
special she is to you and point out specific things that she has
accomplished lately. It's worked with our two boys. Our older one did
ask if he was more special than his brother, but I got away with just
saying how ''very very very'' special he was to me. The book ''Siblings
without rivalry'' directly addresses this. I recall something that kids do
not want to feel that they're being treated equally by the parents but they
do want to feel that they have a special place just for them in the heart of
their parents. Hope that this helps.
Have two very special kids
I don't think it's a good idea to tell your daughter she is her
dad's favorite, because then it sets up the premise that it IS
possible for one sibling to be the favorite. That seems more
hurtful in the long run. Then she'll think she may be right when
she says you (the mom) love her younger sister more. Besides, I
don't know if it's realistic to expect a 9 year old to keep that
in confidence, and not tell her sister the first time they get
into an argument.
Perhaps check out the book Siblings without Rivalry, spend time
one on one with the older daughter, etc. to make her more
confident in your relationship with her.
PLEASE do not let your husband tell your older child that she's
his favorite - there is no such thing as telling something like
this to a child ''in confidence'' - sooner or later the younger
child will find out and be devastated. Favoritism is a
horrible thing to introduce into your family, even if it's with
the best intentions. You won't be able to unring the bell, so
please don't do it.
seen the damage
I appreciate your dilemma, but telling the older one she is the
favorite strikes me as unwise. Even though it's meant to be in
confidence, it seems likely to me that she would gleefully
share that ''secret'' with her sister the first time they get
really mad at each other. That seems like a big mess, which
would result in either your husband having to admit he was
fibbing, or emotional devastation for your younger child.
Also, I can't help feeling that somehow telling her this would
inadvertently play into her worst fears-- namely that parents
DO have favorites. Even though she may be temporarily pleased
to hear that she is the current front-runner, it seems to me
you are setting her up to then obsess that she will somehow
lose her privileged position. I think it's better to keep
reassuring her (and her sister) that you love them both
unconditionally and comparisons make no sense. I wonder if it
would be useful to help her cultivate and/or recognize
qualities which make her special and unique, so that she can
develop more confidence in herself as ''lovable'' and precious.
Definitely, definitely, absolutely do not do this. Imagine how your younger
would feel--heartbroken, abandoned, and less cared for. Any therapist will tell
that is a terrible idea. I understand your husband is probably at a loss for
can do, but that is certainly not the solution. He can compliment her and try
remind her of the good things about her to raise her self-esteem, but saying
likes or loves her better than her sister is a terrible, terribly thing to
I don't have experience with this, but it seems that starting to
play the 'favorites' game is a dangerous road to take. I
remember an episode of Oprah where an expert said that you don't
love every child the same but it's not that you love one more
than the other. you love each one UNIQUELY and you need to tell
this to your children and that they are each unique, and your
relationship to each one is unique, but that does not mean that
you love one child more than the other.
Hopes this helps
I can share with you my experience. My father once told me that
my older sister was smarter than me but because I worked harder,
I got better grades. I think he meant to express that we were
equally successful but got there in different ways. But that's
not the message I got and I can remember his words to this day.
Maybe it had a subconcious effect on me, I can't say for sure.
But why tell a child something that may stick with them forever
with an unintended result? Also, my sister is convinced that my
father favors me over her and I know it is a very sore point with
her. Why would you want your younger daughter to feel less loved?
I think it's likely she will hear one way or another what your
husband tells in ''confidence'' to the other sibling.
My 2 cents
If you were to tell your child that she is the favorite, I
would give it about 48 hours before she threw that information
in your other child's face, then you have a real problem on
your hands. I understand the reason why you want to do it but
I should tell you that my partner's brother was told that he
was the favorite, some 30 years ago and it still causes a rift
between them. I don't think it really matters whether it's
true or not, I think that is something no parent should ever
say outloud. I remember asking our parents that when we were
kids all the time and I am so glad they never said which one of
us was there favorite. I think you should find another way.
How about family counseling, that would probably be so much
run, don't walk to the library and check out Siblings Without
Rivalry. In your post you are already falling into a lot of the
pitfalls that the author talks about. Your husband's ''solution''
would come back and bit you all; there is no way to guarantee
confidentiality of such a statement over a life time. Remember
your children will probably outlive you and sibling relationships
are for a lifetime. The author states very rightly I think that
children need to be loved uniquely, for their individual selves,
It's really hard to know when to intervene and when to let them
work things out but this book is an excellent start.
also a sibling with children
I agree with all the other posters that said NOT to tell one child she is the favorite. My
suggestion is to tell her something reassuring and true instead. When my older one
accused me of loving the baby more than her I told her ''I couldn't love anyone in the
world more than I love you.'' She still occaisionally likes to hear that I don't love
anyone more than her. (I also sometimes have to remind her that I don't love her more
than her sister either.) Just a suggestion.
Have you ever heard of the term ''special time?'' This is when
you take some time with each of your children alone for 1/2 hr
to one hour a week. It's very important that this time be
labeled ''special time'' and that it occurs each week on the same
day at the same time. This is so your child can count on it. Do
not answer the phone or the door if you are at home and be
respectful when you are out and you run into a friend by
saying, ''oh,it's nice to see you (or whatever), but right now
it's our special time and I want to get back to that.'' Wow!
Your child will be so impressed and astounded. I know lots of
us think we are spending special time with our children all the
time but to pay such close attention and to name it and to
honor it makes a world of difference to your children. While
you don't need to say ''you are my favorite'' (and I would
never), it's okay to say, ''This is really nice having you to
myself,''or ''i really enjoy spending time with you without your
sister or brother or whatever.'' Special time doesn't have to be
complicated. It can be a walk around the block, a trip to the
library, a game of cards, etc. Ask your child how she/he wants
to spend time. It doesn't have to cost money. Your undivided
attention is priceless! Good Luck and I can guarantee this will
make a huge difference with Sibling Rivalry.
Do read Siblings without Rivalry. That book has so many
suggestions with how to talk with kids about their unique
specialness to you. I often tell my daughter (or the other
daughter) that there is no one in the world like her, and that
she alone has a special place in my heart. And it's true. I also
tell her about her special qualities without comparing to her
sister. I don't ever compare them to one another. I don't think
it's fair. For example, if one child plays piano well, does that
mean the other child should not play piano? Does one sibling get
to dominate an entire field, such as chess, baseball, flute, art?
Must the other sibling chose something else? Also, the book
Siblings Without Rivalry has many helpful suggestions about how
to handle conflicts between the kids concerning toys, sharing,
rages, etc. They focus a lot on what parents say that is not
helpful as well as how to frame the discussion/issue so as not to
increase jealousy and tension. One thing, which may or may not be
mentioned in the book, that I do is to comment on every kindness
one child shows the other -- each shared toy, each time they
stand up for the other, each time they play well together, any
time they cooperate or work together -- and let them know how
impressed I am by them and how they treat one another in those
mother of two
Is there such a thing as couples counseling for siblings?
I'm half kidding & half serious. My 12 and 16 year old
daughters seem to be hormonal all the time. Small
irritations turn into huge blow-ups, not every day but too
often. We've tried talking things out when everyone is
calm, but it doesn't seem to help. They both have tempers
and seem to feel that it's OK, even good, to express their
emotions, even if it means screaming, cursing & throwing
things. I can't seem to convince them that a little self-
control, tolerance and courtesy would make us all happier.
I get along fine with each of them when we're alone, but
get caught in the cross-fire when we're all together. I
can't quite picture what a therapist would be able to do
for us, but I'm willing to give it a try. Advice or
suggestions or just sympathy would be greatly appreciated!
fed up with the fighting
Anthony Wolf's ''Mom! Jason's Breathing on Me!'' is a good,
concise guide to sibling rivalry.
(For what it's worth, I interviewed Dr. Wolf on the phone a
few years ago. When I asked him under what circumstances a
parent should be seriously worried by sibling conflict, he
said (paraphrased), ''Trust your gut. If you're afraid to
leave them alone anymore, then it's time for family
I have 2 boys, ages 9 and 6 who can't seem to be in a room
together more than 10 minutes without fighting. They bicker
constantly, and will often escalate into hitting and
scratching. They both get along well with their 3 year old
sister, and do fairly well when there are other children
as ''buffers''. They rarely do it on the 3 days per week when
they are with the nanny, but save it up for mom and dad's days
off. Does anyone have any techniques that help kids this age
diffuse their arguments? Both my husband and I work part time
in order to spend more time with them, but they are driving us
I found the book ''Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your
Children Live Together So You Can Live Too'' very helpful. Here is
info from Amazaon:
With a title like this, it's no surprise that authors Adele Faber
and Elaine Mazlish had a monster bestseller on their hands when
the book first appeared in 1988. From the subsequent deluge of
readers' stories, questions, and issues, they have created nearly
50 pages of new material for this, the 10th anniversary edition.
The central message remains the same, and sounds almost too
simple: avoid comparisons. But parents know that's easier said
than done. The value of Faber and Mazlish's discussions is
precisely that they talk you through umpteen different situations
and outcomes to help you teach your brawling offspring a new set
of responses. The highly informative text is punctuated with
helpful summary/reminder boxes and cartoons illustrating key
points. It's a must-read for parents with (or planning on)
multiple children. But parents of young children who get along
fine (so far) should read it too--as the authors make very clear,
rivalry is inevitable. The only question is how to manage the
rivalry with intelligence and compassion, and on that subject
they offer a wealth of good advice.''
I know that some sibling fighting is normal, but lately my 2
boys, 91/2 and 14 just don't quit.
In the past they've gotten along some of the time and would
fight some of the time. But lately it seems constant.
My oldest just turned 14, and though he's in most ways a really
great kid, he really has turned 14 with a vengence.
My little one can be very pesty and is very dramatic, so he
pushes and pushes and pushes and of course he's the one who gets
hurt. The older one also can be an incredible taunt and really
mean spirited at times.
If I can head it off at the pass I usually try to separate
them...then they both say ''I wasn't doing anything, he was
doing.......'' If something happens and I don't see it, they
both blame the other.
My older son lately has been saying ''You should punish him, you
let him get away with everything''. This is actually NOT true,
but has gotten me wondering if we are consistant in our
disciplin and how we can constructively disciplin both boys to
My brother is 7 years older than me and when we were kids we
fought ALL the time. I wanted to be with him and his older
friends (at that age difference, I was REALLY a little kid to
the teenagers). He teased me and made my life miserable,
especially when he had to babysit me. Now we are (and have been
since he left home for college) soooo close (we're both in our
Any advice? Will they grow out of this? Is it
heightened by my 14year old's raging hormones? I'm happiest
these days when one or both of them are not home.
tired of kids fighting
I'm probably most unqualified to give advice, being a single
child myself and raising one too, but I read about a technique
that made sense to me: Put the responsibility on the children.
Their goal is not to fight and solve their own problems. For
every fight they both get consequences no matter who started
what. Ideally, that brings them to the point that they rather
work something out, before the adult steps in. Basically you
make them a team (kids vs. parents) and they will win or lose
as a team. (I'd set a timer for them to find a solution).
That'll break the habit/pattern of earlier years when fights
were created to get the attention of a parent. Sounds good
enough to me in theory for the age of your kids - but what do I
know? My husband is from a family with 7 kids and the only time
there wasn't a fight in the house was Christmas morning.
If your kids were girls I'd think my kids had moved to your
house! I'm in exactly the same situation, and can't decide if I
need to do something about this or if it's just something to
endure. The general nastiness of the 14-year-old has definitely
gotten worse over the last 6 months or so, she just flat out
does not want a younger sibling, she sees her sister as nothing
but a pest, an annoyance. The younger one of course adores her
older sister and wants to be with her all the time, it's really
very sad. About the only time they get along is when they're
apart, if you know what I mean. I toy with the idea of
demanding civil behavior and punishing for uncivil behavior, but
I've never gone in much for punishment, and I'm afraid that
would just increase the antagonism in our house. Currently I
get along fine with each of them, they never pull the
attitude/name calling/rudeness, etc. on me, but am I failing in
my duty as a parent if I don't do more to stop their fighting?
I hope someone has some good advice, or at least reassurance for
Can't we all just get along?
My best advice is to try and persuade the 14 year old that he
is too grown up and mature now to waste his time teasing a
little kid. Also, point out how unfair and unsportsmanlike it
is to pick on someone so much smaller. Of course, then you
might have him turn on you (someone his own size) to wrestle,
I don't think the 9 year old will be mature enough to leave the
big brother alone (you can never dismiss the possibility of
provocation). Also, you want the 9 year old to feel like you
are protecting him from real physical violence (again, without
being unfair to the older one).
We have dealt for 14 years with a mean-spirited older brother
teasing a 4 yrs younger sib, and almost nothing has worked--
not writing 100 times ''I will treat X with respect,'' not loss
of privileges. And after all they do need to relate. A family
therapist says that if they can talk without calling names, and
work things out, that that's the main skill they need to deal
with each other. In my opinion, that's not dealing with the
obnoxious teasing. But, to my surprise, the older teen is
hanging out with more mature kids, and is seeing himself as too
mature-- most of the time. Good luck.
I saw the advice from someone - re: your kids fighting
endlessly - to give the kids consequences equally no matter who
started what. In theory, I understand that, since drawing an
adult into a conflict is often the whole fun of the thing. But
on a gut level I also have to say that as a younger sibling with
an older sister who was really mean to me my whole childhood, my
parents' ''let them work it out'' approach really hurt. I felt so
abandoned. As it turns out, my sister is bipolar and probably
was dealing with mental health issues the whole time -
undiagnosed and unaddressed. The realization that I spent my
childhood being bullied by a mentally ill sibling without
intervention from my parents really stung.
I'm not saying anyone in your family is mentally ill, I'm just
saying that there is a cost to not interventing in some cases.
I never felt I was worthy of protection, or that my feelings
counted. That's not the message you want to convey either, I'm
bullied little sister
I am at my wit's end about how to deal with my children's
behavior, mostly toward each other, but somewhat toward
my husband and me. We have three sons, 6,9, and 12.
They are all bright, generally happy boys who do quite well
in school. We get good reports from other adults about their
behavior away from us. One on one with us they are mostly
But at home and with each other it is often a different story.
The youngest, a first grader, has a very challenging
strong-minded inflexible temperament. He, of course, is
also dealing with the usual issues of being the youngest of
three boys. Despite hours on our part of trying to show them
how to solve their differences, i.e. talk it out, take time to cool
off, etc. they very often resort to yelling, hitting, name calling,
etc. To make matters worse, my temper is so short from
dealing with this so often, I find myself reacting in very
inappropriate way - yelling and saying mean things. This
models even worse behavior for them.
Do others have the same problem with their children? Is it
worse with all of one gender? And of course, does anyone
have any suggestions? We have read quite a few books,
both those dealing with the particular issues of our
youngest and also on sibling rivalry. I would really like
hands-on advice. Thanks.
Boy, do I ever feel your pain! I grew up in a house with 5 kids
-- I was the 4th of 3 girls and 2 boys. My brother closest to
me and my younger sister fought like cats and dogs -- I
mean scratching full punching, name calling -- and to this
day, I still resent my older brother for it. I still don't
understand why my parents allowed it -- my dad is sort of of
the mind that ''kids will work it out'', and I feel like it really hurt
our relationships with each other. I remember BEGGING my
parents not to leave him home ''babysitting'' my younger
sister and me. I was scared and knew he was going to beat
the you-know-what out of one of us. As a result, this is a hot
button for me with my own children. My two daughters are 6
and 7 and when they really go at it verbally, it makes me
craz! y. Fortunately, there are not many instances of physical
attacks on each other, but I find I really have to take a deep
breath and react to them in a very matter-of-fact way -- ''It's
not ok to talk to you sister that way'' and show little emotion. I
find that if I do show emotion, they feed on it and the
problem gets worse. If it continues, I find manual labor is a
great solution! I will warn them once, then start giving them
jobs -- sweeping the floor, washing the windows, etc .. Then
I find that they sort of bond in their frustration at having to do
more chores than normal. I don't mind being the bad guy
that way. While thay are working, I remind them of how
important it is to take care of each other and that it is ok to
be angry with each other, but not to hit or be verbally abusive
toward each other. Works for us! Good luck --
Start watching Nanny911 on Fox (I think on Wednesdays at 9pm).
Seriously. It's actually a great show on parenting skills.
Every week there is some family full of yelling, screaming and
hitting kids (and parents). And every week the nanny provides
some great ideas, insights and solutions. You might even see a
bit of your own family in each episode. Also, there is a new
show called ''Supernanny'' on ABC Sundays at 10pm. I haven't
seen it, but it sounds like more of the same.
I am dealing with EXACTLY the same thing (though only with the two older girls, not
the youngest of the three). Our strong-headed one is the eldest. Though there is
little physical anger shown (sometimes a single hit/push, but this is! rare), there is
lot of fighting, impatience, negative statements, hurtful statements, and yelling and
stomping on the part of the eldest. I, too, find myself very angry and short-
tempered by all of this.
What I am doing: Last week I sat the two older girls down and said that I am
absolutely not accepting this behavior anymore, and I will stop it, repeatedly, if
neccessary, every time it happens. I am also not taking sides, but will ask each
child, calmly, what they think happened, and help each child state why their feelings
are hurt/why they are angry/why they said what they said and perhaps what they
really meant to say, and so on. I am giving a lot more hugs, giving praise to each
child individually, telling them what they are doing well, and really praising them
when they get along. This has seemed to help them, but it has also made me feel
more in control of my own emotions and anger, and at the end of the day, I feel like
a better mom, which helps my mood.
I have already seen some improvements in their behavior this week alone. I also
considered a marble-jar or chart of good behavior, which the two little ones were
excited about, but the older one (age nine) absolutely refused (I think because she
was afraid of the competition, even though that is not what it is meant for).
I get so depressed about the dynamics I see going on between my kids, and
between me and my kids. But, this does seem to be helping! Good luck.
Mom of three girls!
Wow, do I feel your pain! I have two girls, 10 & 14, who
frequently resort to the most vicious, nasty yelling, name-
calling & threatening, (though rarely hitting). The younger one
is similar to your 6-year-old -- very volatile & intense &
strong-willed. The older is the typical moody teen. I too lose
my temper often, and often find myself disliking both of them
when they are being so nasty to each other (the words they know -
- oh my! I didn't know those words until I was a grown-up).
The thing is, these flare-ups are over quickly, and five minutes
later they'll be getting along OK. I haven't found much help in
the literature on sibling rivalry.&! nbsp; Mostly I try to stay out of
it, since the times I've gotten involved have only prolonged the
misery for everyone, and they both end up even madder at each
other (Now we're in trouble and it's your fault!) Of course if
one particular kid is being routinely victimized, you have to
intervene. In our case they're pretty evenly matched. That is,
they are equally to blame for the blow-ups and each gives as
good as she gets. I'm afraid I don't have a lot of suggestions,
I think some of this just has to be endured. I think my girls
will be good friends when they're older, and I don't think
they'll remember all the stupid fights, or at least they won't
be any big deal. I'll be interested in hearing what other
people have to say on this subject, since my kids' fighting is
definitely the biggest source of stress in my life these days.
Wish we could all just get along
Your situations sounds very similar to what I was going through a
couple of years ago with my three boys. They are now 8, 11, and
14. The physical fights, teasing and arguing that was going
between the three of them were driving me nuts. With the help of
a family therapist, we were able to quickly put an end to it. We
agreed to strict family rules: no physical fights, no teasing, no
slamming doors, etc. If a rule was broken, the child's 5 favorite
''priveleges'' were taken away for 24 hours. Each child chose his
5 priveleges -- no gameboy, computer, dessert, etc. There were no
warnings and no second chances. No opportunities to negotiate. I
thought it might be too harsh, but it really worked. My sons have
leared to get along better and I can how picture them having
positve realtionships with eachother as adults. Kids need clear
and consistent rules.
We could! n't haeve done it without the help of the therapist (Dr
Jose Lopez - Kaiser Oakland) who encouraged us to work this all
My boys are 9 and 5. I try to get them to be on the same team,
united against me. If they can't get along after a few
reminders, they are sent to their own rooms for a cool off
period, or if it's really unmanageable, until dinner or bedtime.
They then play alone or will start to interact nicely from their
bedroom doors. Sometimes drawing me into the whole thing just
keeps the arguments going. Sometimes if we are trying to
decide where to go or what to eat, they will be equally insistent
on opposite ideas. I tell them that they need to agree or I will
decide. However when I was a kid with 3 siblings, we often
had charts we made out rotating the go! od chair, and who got to
pick the tv show.
123 Magic by Thomas Phelan has a section on sibling fighting.
I've found it to be very effective as a disciplinary method. I
too was having trouble with my own yelling so I thought that
Thomas Phelan's 'no emotion' 'no talking' rules would be too
hard for me. On the contrary, they give me a method for
dealing with behavior I don't like so I don't have to resort to
Boy I hope someone can guide me in the right direction! I have
two boys, 5 and 7. They are wonderful little guys that my
husband and I adore and they adore us. However they are
constantly at each others throats. Pushing, shoving, tattling,
etc. We try to keep things equal between them, like buying them
the same amounts/types of anything. If one gets a pair of
pajamas the other will get a pair of pajamas, but we realize
that not everything is equal and we've tried talking to them
about this when the situation arises but it just doesn't seem to
work. They always seem to be competing. If it's not getting up
the stairs first, then it's picking a movie, or getting to the
car or even getting their dinner served. ANYTHING. My older son
is very clever and is somewhat manipulative with his brother.
If he sees something that his brother has that he wants he will
persuade his little brother into trading, even if it's an unfair
trade, which we've also discussed ad nauseum. My husband and I
are trying to figure out what to do because even with all the
talking we do, it doesn't seem to be helping much. Does anyone
have any suggestions? I have a younger sister and we used to
fight often too as kids, despite our mom's efforts. Though we
talk, I feel there is a strain in our relationship which has
slowly been improving (I'm 27, she's 25). I do not want my boys
to end up the same way. I want them to be close and be the best
Boys driving mom crazy
look for a book called ''mom, jason's breathing on me!'' it's all
about one man's method to deal with sibling bickering. it was
helpful for me. as with anything, it takes time for the new
techniques to start working for you.
Oh Ho!!! Welcome to the club.
You are certainly not alone in this. I think it's a way of life
for siblings to fight...it is in our house. My boys are 4 1/2
years apart. The little one wants to be with the big one so he's
really pesty to get attention, then the big one torments the
little one....and on and on.
Screaming at them is my first instinct but it really doesn't
work and nothing gets resolved.
What can you take away from them? In our house it's electronics.
Consistancy is the most important inwhatever you decide to do.
In teh past 3 weeks, my husband and I saw a therapist who does
parenting consultations. She helped us a lot to figure out
boundaries and proper and reasonable consequences. I have not
yelled at my kids since that meeting with her and I have to say
things are a lot saner around here.
Granted, my boys are a bit older and easier to reason with than
your youngens but as the therapist said to me, ''kids like
whistles and bells''....they want attention adn they'll do what
it takes, even for negative attention.
So, if you can tone down your reaction they may tone down theirs
I hope this is helpful....you also may have to wait it out.
My brother and I fought all the time as kids...he's 7 years
older though.Now we are as close as can abe.
happier mom of 2 boys
I recommend the book '' Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your
Live! Together So You Can Live Too'' by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
did it help with my parenting, but it gave me insight into my
I've been there with brothers fighting! Here's a great book to
help restore your sanity: '' Siblings Without Rivalry'' by Adele
Faber and Elaine Mazlish. (Theauthors have written other helpful
books including ''How to talk so kids will listen & listen so
kids will talk''. ''How to talk....'' will give you practical tools
to acknowledge your kids' feelings, elicit cooperation without
becoming a nag.)''Siblings without Rivalry'' will help you deal
with your children's feelings and problems and has many
practical suggestions. It's a quick and easy read. Both books
have helped me tremendously and helped my boys stop fighting.
They are really good friends now and are able to talk and
confide in each ! other. Best of luck
I have two boys who are 2.5 years apart, let's call them ''Joe''
(the jock) and ''Jake'' (the artsy-fartsy guy). They are 21 and 18
now. Everything you described happened with my boys too, plus
more. I tried everything to make them get along! They never
really did, though they now accept and respect each other and are
friendly when they are together, but they have virtually no
common interests. Their personalities are completely different,
that's the problem. They dress differently, like different music
and movies, eat different foods, have two totally different
approaches to life. Just like regular people. When they were
little, it was like being forced to have a roommate that you have
nothing in common with. Trying to get these two guys to ''play
nice'' together for extended periods was always futile because
there never was any activity they both liked! , and there still
isn't! (Except for the beach - they always were nice to each
other and played together for hours at the beach.)
So ... I don't know if your boys have different personalities
like this, but here are some things I did that were relatively
successful. 1) Separate rooms if at all possible, or an area
that's off limits to the other one, with a safe place for their
stuff, and the ability to have privacy when they need it.
2) When there was a dispute, I found that I needed to step in and
lay down the law on them rather than try to get them to work it
out between them. I tried really hard to get them to negotiate,
but they just never were able to get to that point. As long as
my rule was not too unfair, they would accept it without
argument. For instance if they were both struggling over the
video game control, I would say ''OK Joe has it till 3:30 and then
it's Jake's turn.'' This method wor! ked a lot better and faster
than trying to figure out who had it first, or who started the
fight, or etc. I can remember saying the following at least
1,000,000 times: ''OK, you can both play the game together but if
I hear any fighting, the game's over and I don't care whose fault
it was!'' They really learned how to cooperate and contain fights
when this rule was in effect, and it did set up a sort of
brothers vs. mom situation that fostered cooperation. 3)
Acknowledge each one's strengths and preferences, and point them
out frequently to the other brother. I think this builds respect
between them, and helps them understand why they are not getting
along. This only works if you really stick to the things they
actually like or are good at! For instance, I'd say to Jake ''Look
how great Joe's doing out there in left field. You'd probably
hate being out there, huh? But Joe loves it!'' I'd say to Joe:!
''Your brother is getting pretty good at speaking Japanese!'' or
''He sure does love that eel sushi!'' As they got older they
started to acknowledge each other's areas of expertise and I'd
even hear them brag a bit to their friends (''My brother eats eel
sushi all the time.'')
Good luck. I think it is really great having two different kinds
of kids because they each satisfy different likes and dislikes in
my own self. When I get tired of watching the baseball game with
Joe, I can go eat sushi with Jake!
I have two boys, age 9 and 6, and we have the same
problem. I would particularly appreciate advice about related
consequences'' i.e. I read all the time that the punishment
should be connected to the offense, but I'm not sure hwo to
do that. What's an appropriate consequence for hitting an
older brother or his playmate?
What's an appropriate consequence for burping, farting on
I'd appreciate any ideas!
I am the mom of 3 boys - the oldest is 7- and I can feel the
same issue rearing up. Apparently the book, ''Sibling Rivalry''
(don't know the author) is wonderful. Someone gave me the tip
that making your kids feel bonded by a them-against-you feeling
works wonders. I have been trying that (''Hey, guys, what's all
that whispering about?'') and it seems to work! They giggle and
sneak off and plot ways to surprise mom.
I also grew up fighting ALOT with my brother - my mom still
says it was the hardest part of parenting for her - but in
contrast to you and your sister, we are truly very very close
now and have been since the teenage years. He is like my best
friend so don't fret that fighting as kids necessarily means
tension forever. And we were brutal with the teasing and ev! en
physical fighting as kids.
OK, I'm desperate. I have two daughters, 12 and 8 years old. Life in our
house is filled with constant tension, squabbles, bickering and outright
battles every day, over every single issue in the house. It's basically
been like this a lot of the time since the 2nd one was born, but it feels
like it's reached an unbearable level.
Elder says she hates Younger and everything about her. Younger
actually really looks up to Elder and wishes she could get her affection,
but Elder has been so consistently dissing her, that she acts out a lot
(cries). Elder says that Younger always gets her way, and that she (E.)
always gets in trouble, so she ends up giving in all the time and then
resenting and hating Younger.
Their battles range from everything from socks to the last glass of
orange juice in the refrigerator, to who gets to have more sleepovers or
playdates. (invariably, Elder) Sometimes I am so desperate that I feel
like getting THEM a divorce -- they seem to have irreconcilable
differences. The four of us cannot do anything together as a family
because it is so horribly unpleasant, so we end up separating often and
are even doing separate vacations this year (dad with Elder, mom with
Elder feels very bitterly about the very existence of her sister and says I
should've realized this would be a possibility when I decided to have
Clearly, we need help. I would like to find a therapist who specializes in
sibling/family issues although Elder is exTREMEly resistant to the idea
and says she will not cooperate, that she cannot trust a therapist,
wouldn't talk to one, etc. I'm worried that forcing her to go would be
counterproductive but I'm really at the end of my tether and not sure
what else to do. We're all completely worn out.
All siblings fight. Some hate each other. Others say they
hate each other. If there are also positive moments from
time to time, your kids are normal and the best thing to do is
stay out of it entirely. Don't take sides, don't even listen to
their whining about each other. The mantra is ''you two need
to work this out''.
What sounds different about your family is that you've given
so much power to your kids --- especially the 12 year old! If
you decide on therapy, that's IT. Its not her place to make
that decision...or any important decision about family
dynamics. Don't give her the power--she doesn't really want
My suggestion for you, whether or not you decide to get the
counselling is to explain to the girls that ''getting along'' is
now their #1 job. You have the right to expect behavior that
is acceptable in your home. You can't order them to love one
another --- but the secret is ...they do... and that's why they
''hate'' each other so much. They have the habit of being
mean to one another -- but, they can acquire the habit of
NOT being mean to one another, too. It will take work. You
are not depriving them of anything of value by taking away
the right to be mean,.
I'm very serious about expecting better behavior. If you don't
get the behavior you desire, I'd restrict them both to the
house --- and take ALL their privileges away (phone,
computer, even blow dryer if you have to) until they earn
them back by demonstrating consistant decent behavior.
I would not believe this works if I hadn't seen it in a family
with which I grew up. 5 kids in 2 bedrooms, and any fighting
better be private--or else. Now in their 40s, the 5 live within 2
miles and are all good friends, and communicate well.
Can I say that I practice what I preach here? Not entirely, but
I try...and my kids are sometimes heartbreakingly kind to
one another.... so the mandate for me is to STAY OUT OF IT
as much as possible, and keep my fingers crossed that we
get through without bloodshed.
Have I pulled privileges for behavior? -- absolutely.
Anonymous for Kids' sake
Please protect your 8-year-old.
I grew up unprotected from the bully in our house (my sister)
and it has had long-lasting ramifications. Just because abuse
is coming from a sibling instead of a parent, does not mean it is
not abuse--nor is it something the two of them should ''work
out on their own.''
Your 8-year-old's very existence should not be up for
I'm sorry to be blunt, but your 12-year-old sounds
spoiled rotten--by her parents. You must find a new way to
operate. Accomodating her attrocious behaviour by giving her
extra sleep-overs and separate vacations will do her no good
in the long run. And what do you think you are teaching her
little sister? Your 12-year-old should not be allowed to refuse
therapy, nor should she be allowed to think her behaviour is
acceptable. Your family is at stake. I can tell you that my family
has been irrevocably fractured--and this includes
relationships with my parents.
I have one final question:
Would you put up with a classmate-bully treating your 8-year-
old daughter in this manner?
A mom of two girls
You are not alone in this difficult and painful situation. You
could have been describing my family. We have three absolutely
great children. They are smart, funny, loving, kind,
creative, etc. The two younger are boys, 4 years apart, now 19
and 14 and a half. For years they could not be together without
thermonuclear dispute. Their relationship and associated
impossible behavior when they were together changed our family
life in ways large and small. I urge you to find counseling,
however. It can help. We saw family counselors (slightly
helpful) and, at one particularly awful period, the boys saw
separate, individual counselors (extremely helpful). It took us
several tries to find a counselor for the resistant child. (Once
he sat in the waiting area and refused to go in.) One reassuring
(if that's the right word) thing was that we did find outstanding
counselors who had experience with these issues. Our experience
was that having the our sons see different counselors was
important to the boys' buy-in.
I can't say that things are now wonderful between our sons.
Believe it or not, we still hesitate to leave them home alone
together, although they say that this is our problem not theirs.
We do now have some good times together, but I have scaled back
my expectations. Sometimes, we have a good meal together, or the
boys are charming and gracious (and don't fight) at a family
event. We can usually watch movies together now. Vacations? We
now do separate things with each child, and, although I am sad
about this, I wish we had done this earlier when our trips and
vacations left us (the parents)drained and unhappy. (The kids,
however, do have more positive memories of these vacations than
do their parents!)
Re your elder daughter's resistance to therapy: Speaking as a
parent who is nearing this point myself, I think you should
ignore her. If she cannot/will not stop the behavior, therapy is
a good idea. I suspect she will, in fact, talk to the
therapist. Inside, she is not happy with herself for abusing her
younger sister and upsetting her parents. She needs help
learning new ways to cope with jealous, angry feelings.
If counseling helps, all parties will benefit, and the benefits
will be long-lasting. If she doesn't un-learn bullying, she is
likely to ruin other important relationships in her life as an adult.
If counseling doesn't help, and you have the money, you might
think about boarding school. This would be a big relief for your
younger daughter. Please don't think I don't have compassion for
your elder daughter -- I do. She isn't happy right now. I think
boarding school would probably be a good and possibly
transforming experience for her. (I and my siblings went to
boarding school and loved it. There are many insightful posts in
the UCB Parent archives re boarding schools, and you'll note that
nearly all are positive.) Boarding school is not a banishment,
but an attempt to rearrange your two daughters' lives in order to
make both of them happier.
Anon for own daughter's sake
I cannot recommend a particular therapist, but I'm so glad that you're
looking for one. I'm 50 years old and was the recipient of my much older
sister's hatred growing up and into my mid-thirties until I decided not to
talk with her anymore. I haven't talked with her in 14 years. My parents
did nothing to intervene and my mostly negative interactions with her
and my parents' lack of protection/action have caused me quite a bit of
damage (among many other issues), for which I am in therapy. Time or
Newsweek magazine had an article a few years back on the damage that
serious sibling rivalry can do. Might be worth your checking out. I think
this is a mostly overlooked area. Please persist for both of their sakes.
Each parent should try to give each girl undivided attention for
a few minutes every day.
You might try taking a friend for each girl on outings or
vacations. Or invite a another family with two compatible kids.
Take two cars and put the friends together so the sisters don't
even have to ride in the car together.
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