L: James, you mentioned accountability. Creating a culture of accountability. What does that mean? Can you explain that and how, what it means to parents and kids.
J: First of all, when we start with accountability, one of the things that I talk to teachers and parents about is creating a culture of accountability. And that culture of accountability occurs between two people. So when we talk about what’s on TV, what they’re learning in the movies, what their video games is, that, that’s fine. But the culture of accountability comes with, this is how I’m gonna talk to you and this is how you have to talk to me. This is what I’m gonna expect of you and this is what you can expect of me. That’s very clearly learned out. That you’re accountable for the way you talk to me and treat me. You’re accountable for your responsibilities and you can expect me to take responsibility to be accountable for my responsibilities. I’m gonna pay the rent, I’m gonna have food on the table, I’m gonna make sure that we have a place to live. You have to talk to me appropriately, you have to do your schoolwork and you have to learn how to solve life’s problems without hurting other people.
MG: I think it’s important to note James that a culture of accountability isn’t just a parent child thing. We even as adults need to be accountable; we are accountable every day to someone.
J: That’s right, well, I don’t think people are accountable to a culture. I think that that develops between people. Between individual people and groups. So even personal relationships and work relationships.
J: Work. I’m accountable to that job. I’m accountable to my role in that business. I’m accountable to that business. They’re gonna pay me, that’s what I expect of them, they expect me to do the role that they defined for me. They also expect me to do it with some quality and some efficiency.
MG: So as a parent, what you’re setting your child up for by expecting him to be accountable to you is the whole mindset that you will always be accountable to someone. This is a coping skill. This is a problem solving skill you have to learn.
J: Absolutely. Look, when you hold your child accountable, when you develop that culture of accountability, you as a parent have a responsibility to teach that child to acquire the skills he’s gonna need to be able to be accountable. People who can’t be accountable for their homework disrespect other people. People who can’t be accountable for their behavior turn it around and challenge you and act out. So when you’re having a culture of accountability, there’s a two–way thing. I expect you to do the right thing and you can expect me to teach you how to do the right thing.
MG: So my job as a parent then is to set specific standards, to set specific goals, to set attainable landmarks that a child can say, if I do this, I become accountable. If I do this, I’m behaving responsibly.
J: Yeah, it’s not only setting goals. It’s giving the skills to reach the goal. So let’s say I’m a parent and my goal is that you’re gonna sink five throws from the free throw line in basketball out of ten. Well I just can’t put you up there with a ball and tell you do it, that’s my goal. I’ve gotta show you how to do it. I’ve gotta show you how you place your feet, how you place your arms. How you propel the ball. I’ve gotta spend some time practicing with you. I’ve gotta show you how to do these things and I’ve gotta practice them. So it’s not setting the goals, it’s giving the kid the skills. Acquiring the skills yourself for an understanding of what it takes. Using the tools and using the skills.
James Lehman had a very personal understanding of kids with behavior problems. He displayed severe oppositional, defiant behaviors as a child and teenager, and became a Behavioral Therapist specializing in helping troubled children, teens and their families for 30 years.
Janet Lehman, MSW Child Behavior Therapist
Janet Lehman has over three decades of clinical experience working with out–of–control children and teens and their parents. Working in group homes and residential treatment centers, Janet helped children with serious behavioral disorders learn to get their behavior under control.
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Sibling rivalry is normal in families with more than one child. It becomes a problem when one child bullies or dominates the other. It's also a more complex issue than it first appears. On the surface, you have two kids who are “at war”—who bicker constantly and don’t get along. There can be many reasons for this, but at the core of this rivalry is a common theme that runs through it all: the sense that one sibling is the victim of the other and somehow “less than.” And that child often believes that he gets less love from his parents than his dominant brother or sister does.
Sibling rivalry is a difficult and sometimes painful issue for many families, but here’s the bottom line: rivalry and jealousy are a normal part of life. Your responsibility is to help your kids learn to manage the feelings that come along with it. If they don’t, these issues will get carried over into adult life. The feelings of injustice, unfairness, and victimhood that accompany sibling jealousy become even more crippling to contend with later on. By following a few simple strategies, you can work with your kids to manage sibling rivalry and broker a peace treaty in your home today.
Here’s the bottom line: rivalry and jealousy are a normal part of life. Your responsibility is to help your kids learn to manage the feelings that come along with it.
The Bullying Sibling
Don't confuse bullying with normal sibling rivalry. So before I give you techniques for dealing with everyday sibling rivalry, I want to discuss kids who engage in what I call the “bully-victim” dynamic. One kid is the bully—usually the one who is older or stronger—and he picks on his other sibling constantly. Because of this aggression, the child who’s being picked on often develops antagonizing methods of getting back at the bully. Since the child being teased can’t stand up to the bully directly, he develops ways of getting revenge on his more aggressive sibling by saying things under his breath or calling him names.
If one of your children bullies his siblings and has to be the boss and control others to the point of getting physical, it indicates some underlying self-doubt and serious errors in thinking. He is somehow justifying being hurtful to others in order to make himself feel better. In these cases, you have to hold all of your kids responsible when there is an argument, but you have to hold the bully responsible for any aggression over and above the bickering. Give consequences to every child who was involved, but if there’s a bullying situation, you have to take a stand. And I don’t mean take sides as if you don’t love both of your kids. You have to say “There’s going to be no bullying here. There’s going to be no cursing at each other. There are serious consequences for that behavior.”
In any kind of intervention with a child who is bullying his siblings, you have to challenge their thinking. Say to him, quite frankly, “Why is it that when you get angry you think it’s okay to hit? What, the rules don’t apply to you once you get angry?” And make it very clear: “When you’re angry, the rules still apply to you, and so do the consequences.” The bullying sibling is going to test everybody because that’s what bullies do; they try to exert their power over anybody. But as a parent, you need to challenge those thinking errors directly and give that kind of behavior firm consequences.
4 Ways to Manage Sibling Rivalry
Hold both kids responsible for their behavior. In many cases of sibling rivalry, both kids are almost equally responsible for the behavior. One child may start to tease the other or call the other a name, which starts a volley of teasing and name-calling. As long as you know that there’s some equity in how the behavior is being conducted and in who’s starting it, then I recommend that you hold both of your kids accountable. Set up a rule in your house that if fighting among siblings occurs, everybody goes to bed a half-an-hour early. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, or who started it. Hold both kids accountable—after all, it takes two to tango. You can say, “You kids know the rules around here, there’s no bickering. Go to your room for ten minutes until we talk about it.”
Set up a “bickering table”. If bickering—the constant, petty, back-and-forth fighting among kids—is an issue in your house, I recommend that families set up what I call a “bickering table.” You basically schedule time each night for your kids who argue constantly to sit down and bicker. So, let’s say from six to six thirty at night, your kids will have to sit there and argue. And believe me, you’ll be surprised at how quickly they’ll stop bickering, because they’ll feel silly trying to come up with things to argue about. Even if they run out of things to say, make them stay at that table for a half an hour. And let them know that if they don’t bicker during the day, they won’t have to go to the table that night. It becomes a great motivator for kids to avoid squabbling with each other.
Stop refereeing your kids’ fights. How do you stop getting in the middle of your kids' fights? As long as it’s not a bullying situation, don’t play referee. Don’t become the judge of who’s right or wrong. And don’t try to decide who the worst antagonist is. Instead, you can say, “There’s no fighting in the house, and these are the consequences for your behavior. You two kids have to learn to walk away from each other. And if you’re not willing to do that, then you’re both going to be held responsible for the consequences.” As far as consequences go, utilize video games, electronics, cell phones—anything that’s important to your kids. And tell them that they’re going to lose time. I always advise parents to have structured free time at night or after school. When your kids get their free time at the end of homework, they get to choose what they’d like to do. That’s time when they get to watch TV, play video games, do instant messaging, or talk on the cell phone. And if they fight, they lose some of that time. You can say to all of the involved parties, “You’ve lost half an hour of your free time because you don’t know how to get along and stop arguing all the time. You can read, you can hang out, but you can’t use any of your electronics.”
De-fuse jealousy. If one of your children is envious of his sibling, I recommend that you try to downplay it. Don’t make it a big deal. I think you ought to say something like, “Well, you know, that’s natural, we all feel jealous sometimes. Ryan may have done well in soccer, but I watched you do your math homework and get it all done the other night, and I know it was hard.” Always point out your children’s good characteristics. Mention concrete things you saw and heard them do, and let them know that you’re valuing their efforts as much as their brother or sister’s.
Often, if a child acts jealous and feels as if he’s a victim, parents tend to give him more attention, whether he's the sibling who does the teasing or the one who gets teased more often. But I don’t think it's a good idea to shine a light on it, because what you’re doing is rewarding that sense of victimhood. Instead, try to praise all your children equally. When they get compliments from you, what they really experience is your affection. It’s called “hypodermic affection” and it’s an effective way to build up your child’s confidence by giving a lot of little compliments to him all the time. And the more hypodermic affection kids get, the less jealous they tend to be, because they feel like they’re being recognized and their needs are being met.
Remember to talk about how siblings are supposed to treat each other. There should be an overarching philosophy that starts with, “We’re a family, we have to help each other, we have to support each other.” Parents also need to model that behavior by acting supportively towards each other. Talk to your kids about what friendship means, and focus on having your kids help each other out. Work to enforce the sense of, “We have to take care of each other, we’re a family here.”
Ideally, a family is supposed to be a safe place where everyone is loved and everyone is equal. Your children may feel jealous of each other, but again, jealousy is a normal human feeling; it’s a perception. Normal sibling rivalry and jealousy will not be taken away by anything you, as a parent, can do. Butwhat you can do is make sure that there’s enough love, nurturance and positive regard to go around for everybody, while at the same time, setting limits on the amount of chaos that ensues from this bickering behavior.
James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."
I have four children, three of which are teenagers. Two of my teenage daughters developed an almost hateful relationship toward eachother for a time. There was arguing, power struggles, mean looks, refusing to talk, eye rolling, and just general nasty attitudes toward one another. It escalated to a point that I feared they would (a) become physicaly violent with eachother, and (b) would irreperably damage their relationship as sisters for a long time or possibly for the rest of their lives.
It was truly bad. We were at a loss as to why there was this sudden aggression between them. There has never been violence in our home and we didn't understand where they were getting it from.
We talked as a family, we talked with them individually, we talked with them together, we had them talk it out on their own, we tried about a dozen different ways to help them both back off the edge they were on, but it was only getting worse with each attempt to help them and they both admited there was really no real reason for their hostility, they just knew they each felt it and it was overloading every other rational feeling.
Because we had a younger child in the home, a toddler, we realized the violent nature of their little war, even though it wasn't physical it was coming close to it, was traumatizing to our younger son and potentially harmful. We explored every option we knew available and finally decided to split up the kids between me and their dad, my ex-husband. This was not a light decision and it's one their dad and I swore we would never make. Keep in mind this war had been going on for a year by this point. We held a family meeting and both girls were in favor of the split.
Once the girls were living in seperate households, there was a dramatic change. It was like magic. Within the span of two weeks, they went from being enraged, not talking or only yelling, or shoving eachother as they walked past the other, to missing eachother, calling eachother every day to see how their day was, talking about boys and school, giggling and smiling when they saw eacother on weekends, and becoming best friends.
To this day, five years later, they are closer than ever, but if they spend more than a couple of days together, or forced to be with each other too often on a trip like a family vacation, we start back down the path of hostlity. They can usually control it better now than the first couple of years, but it's obvious there is tension when we push the envelope. They have all been to therapy, and have learned conflict resolutions skills, but it all goes out the window when we force them together for too long.
My theory was that it is a simple case of hormones, and their energy just clashed to a degree that it destabalized them both to be together. I don't know any other explanation, all I know is that seperating them worked. I don't reccomend getting rid of your kids by any means, it was an extremely radical decision for us as parents and one we didn't consider for a very long time. We worried at first that by seperating them we would be teaching them to run away from their problems, and then realized that the happy family we have now, and that we had almost immediatly after the seperation, could not have been a bad thing, and if anything, it taught them to appreciate each other more. We had to let go of our own view of what our family should look like, and not care about what others would think of us as parents.
So for parents who have children that don't fit into this article's narrow view of sibling rivalry, I'm here to tell you there are other reasons and solutions beyond the ones suggested and sometimes unconventional measures are necssary to accomplish your goals.
Comment By : W
I found the article to be very helpful. My husband and I have only been married for two months and the constant jealously between bio kids and step kids has been a serious issues both boys ages 15, 9 and 6 (2 younger kids diagnosed with ADD/ADHD) My husband wants either ignore the situation and then it esclates and his child being 6 is always being referred to as the victim and/or he doesnt know "Hes only 6" or wants to referee. In either case, it is not working and I;'m ususally referred to as not doing anything to correct the problem. In a moment of frustration, his cure is to pack up his son and send him home back to his mothers to destress the situation. I have printed the article and will be letting him read it tonight and hopefully this will be a new beginning. Thank you :)
Comment By : Busycountrymom
Thanks for the advice here. I have one child (10) who is always on my younger two (5 and 7) and I've had it. I see now that my older son isn't just teasing the littler ones. He's bullying them.
Comment By : Layla
I have two sons, 12 and 10, who typically are at each other when the are in any proximity to each the other. The older is the 'bullying' one and the younger one is tough and holds his ground. I sense that the older one is jealous of the 10 yr old who is quite different and very capable is ways that the older one just is not. So, having read the above article and having recently completed the Total Transformation I am at the threshold of beginning to tackle this very disquieting sibling rivalry. It, perhaps, is the no. one disruptive force in our household. I hope to blog again soon and give an update.
Comment By : mike, indiana
Very helpful! My boys are so different and the younger one is constantly bullying the older one. I think he is jealous bc/ we are always praising how well behaved the older one is hoping the younger one will follow in his footsteps!!!!!
Comment By : Frustrated Mom
I have three girls-9,8 and 4. The older 2 share a room. The arguing does affect the 4 year old and she has learned their tools of the trade (Your butt is so big, your head is so fat)-sounds silly coming from a 4 year old but it is just ugly. The older ones don't have the curse word vocabulary down-thanks goodness because I know the little one will pick that up to.
We do alot of what this article suggests-and it does help alot-like the no fighting rule-we are a family and must help eachother-etc. But I do have a hard time stepping out of the referee position so I really like the bicker table idea. And I think after a few minutes they will start laughing and want to leave the table. The real challenge will be making them stay there the other 10 or 20 minutes so they realize they have wasted precious time.
I also really like what the first poster had to offer. Splitting up the girls is dramamtic and I can't and won't at my girls ages but I can seperate them for hours at a time. And I know that when they are apart for awhile they do miss eachother alot. I need to do more of that so they can appreciate eachother.
Comment By : Teresa, Maryland
I just used the bickering table and it was great, they got tired and wanted to do somethng else after a while and had to stay there for 1/2 an hour. I made it clear that if they choose to continue to bicker we can do this tomorrow night...it's their choice
Comment By : earthmuffin
My mom used the bickering table back in the '70's for my sister and brother and it was very effective. They would end up laughing with each other after a few minutes. I'm thankful I haven't had to deal with rivalry with my own teenaged boys. Thanks for the useful articles!
Comment By : Virginia mom
I have two boys, 15 & 8, they each have a different father. They argue all the time. The eight year old has adhd and the 15 year old has a short fuse and a little anger issue and also loves to pick. No matter what the 8 year old says the 15 year old always has a smart remark to put him down and of course that starts a huge fight, sometimes physical. When I yell at the 15 year old him for it he always either says "I was just kidding or I didn't do anything wrong, why is always my fault?" I have a real hard time keeping my cool. I am going to try the bickering table. I hope it helps. Thank you for the advice.
Comment By : stressed out mom
Sibling bullying, manipulation, criticism, and constant agitation is so high in my home that I'm afraid of the "bickering table". I'm thinking it would be a source of joy for my oldest and would therefore look forward to it while the other would feel attacked and unprotected or betrayed (cause I initiated it). I think with homes where the constant bullying is too much, some separation and professional help may be the most effective means for change and healthy growth. What do others here think?
Comment By : Mel ~
* Dear ‘Mel’:
I agree with you, Mel. There are situations where a ‘bickering table’ might not be the best answer for a family. When we’re talking to parents on the Support Line and we have determined that the ‘bickering table’ might be a good technique for them, by and large we get a little laughter back from the parent when we suggest it. The laughter comes along with, “That’s a great idea!” and they say they can’t wait to try it. The ‘bickering table’ helps a child learn to practice restraint, by finding a way to deal with their feelings in the moment and wait until the time set aside to talk about them.
Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor
I disagree strongly with "stop refereeing your kids fights".
My parents had the attitude like that - kind of like "I'm not going to get in the middle of it, you need to work it out!"
Because my parents didn't intervene I dealt with constant criticims and hurtful behavior from my siblings. Even if I did what you said in the article and tried to be the doormat and always let them get their way. I believe it was very unhealthy and toxic to allow this to happen.
One way to look at it is: Would you let a strangers kid treat your child like that? No, of course not, you'd intervene. Then why would you allow your bio kid to treat another bio kid like that?
I believe part of the responsibility of parenting is help them grow up in a safe, healthy and non-toxic environement. A place where parents do not try to stop sibling rivlary is unhealthy and can have detrimental affects.
Comment By : Rachel
* Dear Rachel:
Thank you for sharing your experience. James Lehman would agree with you that there are circumstances when you should intervene in sibling interactions. If a sibling is being bullied by another, then you must step-in and stop it. “Let the [bully] tell you the excuse, and then reiterate, ‘There's no excuse for abuse’. Don't shut off communication, but don't validate the thinking errors that go into the justification of abusive actions. There should be consequences for abuse.” As long as interactions between the kids are equitable, he recommends that you don’t play referee and decide who is more to blame. Allow them the opportunity to learn to ‘work it out’ among themselves. If it gets ‘out of hand’, you should require all the kids to take a break until they can behave appropriately. If a child comes to you for help with a sibling problem, coach them on what they should say and do to solve their problem. Remember, you can call the trained specialists on the Support Line for more ideas on how to use the techniques in the Total Transformation Program in your own home. Keep in touch.
Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor
Yes, sibling rivalry is normal and obviously not right. It is not the siblings fault as to him being treated differently and the parents, sorry to say. I have 1 child and my boyfriend has 2 children, and it's hard but I try very hard to be fair and not make anyone of the children jealous but it isn't easy all the time. Kids don't understand that specially when there is an age difference. But when all the children are together you have to be as fair as possible and if you child expresses that things are being fair, explain it to them don't make them feel they are wrong unless they truly are wrong and trying to use that victim roll on you to manipulate you. Love, attention and communicate with you kids... I try to explain to my boyfriends older boy because he has the hardest time because the little boy get's away with much more then him and it is totally understandable in a way that it would bother him, but i tell him you are taking it out on your brother but it's not his fault that he get's away with things and you don't and thats were I leave it with him. I don't put the blame on the parent, basically it is whoever he is with when he get's that feelings fault. I come from a family of 4 and me being the youngest. Well I hope these points could help people also..
Comment By : MamaB
I really liked the bickering table idea and decided to try it tonight. To my surprise it backfired everyone felt free to say hurtful things and even name call, it wasn't positive for us. I immediately turned it around and instead had each person tell something specific about something that love about each other. That really turned things around and got everyone laughing and happier. I was then able to talk to them about how thinking and talking positive about each other helps us get along and feel love and peace in our home. I think I will instead have a "Compliment Table" each night but not have it be a punishment if they fight, but just be a regular routine to help them learn to think and act more positively. I'll let you know how it goes. :-) But thank you for the idea, it helped spark another idea for my family that I hope will work.
Comment By : Kaye
Great Advice Thanks!
Comment By : Una
I have 17 and 15 years old daughters and they do have totally different personalities. Older one is more easy-going but she outbursts her anger and gets violent once she gets mad. However, on daily basis, since she is the older one and easy-going one, I often asks her to look away when her sister becomes annoying and bossy. I tried to acknowlege older one's attempts as well. However, older one always involves me whenever she confronts her sister and expects me to do something. When I don't punish her younger sister hard enough, then she gets mad at me. When she gets mad, she curses and slams door. Even though I understand why she is upset, her ourburst pushes me to the edge. I express that she cannot curse at me and try to punish her for her behavior, she often gets more upset even after she calms down because she thinks I am only harsh on her. I try so many times to tell her that I am punishing her for her behavior not for her disputes with her sister but she doesn't seem to get it. Any advice?
Comment By : YMom
* To ‘YMom’: It sounds like you are really getting pulled into the conflicts your daughters are having with each other—not a fun place to be! Keep in mind you do not need to be the referee, nor do you need to dole out consequences for one daughter at the request of another. It might help to have a policy of no consequences if you didn’t see or hear it happen yourself and encourage them to work things out on their own. You can do this by problem solving with each girl regularly and privately about what she can do to handle conflict with her sister more effectively. Furthermore, when your 17 year old has outbursts, focus on walking away, taking some space to yourself, and not taking it personally. The goal is to give you all some time to calm down, not to try to make your daughter “get it.” Defending yourself as a parent and trying to get her to see it your way will not be productive and will only prolong the conflict. We know this is hard and we wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.
Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
My question has to do with sibling 'meaness' my daughter is 3 1/2 and my son just turned 2 in Jan. Big sis has started to pinch and bite her little brother for no apparent reason. I noticed when she is not in a 'normal' routine, say like on the weekends her behavour is worse towards him. I have tried taking her 'special' items away from her, time-out, swat on the rear, a pinch back, not reading her a bedtime story, etc. Nothing seems to work. I am a stay at home mom for the most part (tutor 2 or three times a week in the evening)and am at my wits end. They are about the same height and weight but my son doesn't seem to have the mean streak my daughter has. Any suggestions?
Comment By : Help Mae Mae
I think this article points out an important distinction between 2 different types of sibling rivalry. One is the bullying relationship, the other is the bickering relationship. We have both, but when the bullying relationship is being handled by me, I have managed to ignore the bickering relationship.
I love the idea of the bickering table, however I anticipate that my bully (who is also defiant and obstinate) will simply refuse to attend. How do I make her come to the table?
Comment By : tdr
* To 'Help Mae Mae': Aggression in young children can be very troubling for parents, especially when it is directed at a younger sibling. When you see your daughter start to become aggressive, it is important that you step in and stop it immediately. Try to remain calm, and let her know that she needs to calm down as well. When she is calm, we recommend talking with her in simple, clear terms about why pinching and biting aren’t OK, and what she can do differently. For example, you might say “I know you are angry/tired/hungry/etc. Biting and pinching your brother are not OK, even if you are angry. When I feel angry, I say ‘I am really mad right now’ and go to my room to calm down. Let’s practice that.” We also recommend responding to the aggression by losing a privilege, such as losing TV time if she is aggressive. I am including a link to an article I think you might find helpful: Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.
Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor
* To ‘tdr’: You ask a great question. It might be helpful to establish a consequence and your child can choose. You can present your child with two choices: 1) sit at the bickering table for 30 minutes or 2) lose your computer (or some other privilege) for the rest of the night. This will not only help to motivate your child but to hold him accountable for participating. And as James says, let him know that if he doesn’t bicker with his sibling during the day, he won’t have to do the bickering table or lose his computer later. We hope this works out well for you. Take care.
Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
My girls are adults. One still lives with us and the other one is married due to have her first child. My girls still fight but now its over facebook. I have removed myself from my husbands facebook and the kids facebook as I dont want to be brought into their arguement did I do the right thing? It appears the one girl is using my husband facebook to argue with her sister using my husband as an inbetweener. I backed out AS I dont want to get involved.
Comment By : Tanya
* Tanya: What a tough situation! It’s never a good feeling to be caught in the middle of two fighting kids, adults or not. It’s completely fine to let your daughters handle their own conflicts. You can’t control how they treat each other, but you can control whether or not you allow them to drag you into the argument. Removing them from your Facebook page sounds like an effective way to set some boundaries with them so that you don’t get caught in the middle anymore. We always say it’s best to focus on what you have control over and you’ve done that. Good for you!
Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor
I wish someone could help me. I pray every day, night, second. I have twin 16-year old boys. They can play and laugh with each other, and everything is fine, BUT, sometimes the smallest thing sets one or the other off. I've talked and tried to reason with them, but there are times it gets physical...and it's those times I literally hate! One twin wants to fight and threatens and hits, the other one (the bigger one, actually) doesn't fight back--has told us he'll never hit his brother. Tonight, we had a great day at the beach, but on the ride home, something small set my one son off, and he threatened to hit his brother as soon as we got home. As soon as the car stopped, he got out of the car waiting for his brother to get out. I couldn't let the physical fight happen, so I got out of the car and tried to reason with him. The reasoning didn't work, he was dead set on hitting his brother. I refused to get out of the way, and he ended up walking off down the street. His twin knows his brother would come back and get him, so he asked to be taken to my sister's house to get away. I told him that wouldn't solve anything, so he packed a bag and left the house. Both came home an hour or so later. The really angry son thought for a few hours and just now came in and apologized to me and his dad for his behavior, still feels his justified in why he had gotten angry and is still angry at his brother, but he apologized to us and hugged us. Why do things get this bad? I just wish it would stop! Arguing, I can take. They get angry, separate and then end up playing together later. Physical threats, I can't stand. And I can't let a physical fight happen right in front of me. How do I get them to stop? I talk and reason with them, but when my one gets angry, it's all he focuses on.
Comment By : Just Want Peace
* To “Just Want Peace”: Thank you for taking the time to share your story and ask some excellent questions. Sibling issues can be some of the most challenging behaviors for parents to address. I can hear how much this behavior really upsets you and understandably so. As parents, we have a strong desire to protect our children from harm. When the possibility for that harm comes from another member of the family, it can put us into a very stressful position. What is probably going to be most effective is to help your son develop better problem-solving or coping skills. As Sara Bean outlines in her article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" negative behavior is a reflection of your son’s poor problem-solving skills. Basically, he gets upset or angry with his brother and deals with that by becoming physically assaultive towards him. It’s OK that he’s upset with his brother; we all get upset from time to time. What isn’t OK is how he’s choosing to deal with being upset. The other thing we would suggest is a task-oriented consequence. For example, if your son does get angry with his brother and hit him, you can hold him accountable by withholding a privilege until he can go for 24 hours without getting physical with him. You could say something like “ I understand you were upset with your brother but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to hit him. When you show me you can go for 24 hours without getting physical with your brother then you can have your cell phone back.” This allows your son to practice the appropriate behavior, which, along with the problem-solving conversation, will help him develop the replacement behaviors you’re looking for. One other thing we would suggest is that you hold his brother accountable for his part of the disagreement as well. In her article Sibling Rivalry: Good Kid vs. Bad Kid, Carol Banks explains the importance of holding each child accountable for his part in the conflict. It’s important not to choose sides. Instead, help them both develop the skills they need to resolve conflicts on their own. I hope this has been helpful. We wish you and your family luck as your work through this challenge. Take care.
Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor
I have two children, a boy who is almost 7 and a girl who is almost 4 years old. I'm finding that my daughter is the antagonist most of the time and now my son is picking it up. The worst part is that my daughter also treats her father and me with a lot of back talking, arguing, and just being disrespectful in general to the whole family. My son was always so good so I didn't get to experience any problems with him, but this situation is making me crazy. We do time outs for both but it doesn't work that well with my daughter. No type of punishment seems to bother her and so she continues the behavior. I'm close to ripping all my hair out!
Comment By : going bald
I have a 5,8, and 11 year old - and it is feast or famine here. THere are times they are amazing - all play or each with the other, but when they fight it is so MEAN!!! the older 2 usually fight to gain the younger attention to play (thereby excluding the other) and it it mainly the older 2 that go at it; name calling, hitting, pushing, etc. They have to go to their rooms, and early bed, but this doesn't seem to deter them for the next time. I will try this bickering table. I know they all have good hearts in there. Just want to trun this around as it has been about 2 years of this level of intense fighting when it happens. Any other ideas - let me know! Dina
Comment By : Letsnipitinthebud
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