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Parenting Behaviorally Challenged Kids, Part II: Sibling Rivalry

Posted by Melody

I ended my last blog post for EP by saying that our daughter was given the diagnosis of ADHD and began Ritalin in first grade, which seemed to be a miracle…

Can you blame us for being relieved when she began having fantastic days in school and we had nothing but great reports from the teachers, except for the days that she  forgot to take her medicine? Unfortunately, there were incredible mood and energy swings when the medicine wore off and she would crash with such force that she was certainly not fun to be around. As a result, most evenings she would be isolated in her room crying, screaming, or sulking, while the rest of us were left in shock in the wake of the storm. I was frequently embarrassed to take her places at that time because she was predictably unpredictable. Her behavior would impact everyone, especially her brother, as he has been particularly sensitive to her interactions with him from the beginning.

From the time my son was born I have been mindful of the daily struggle needed to ensure his physical and emotional safety in her presence. My daughter was nineteen months at the time and despite my best preparatory efforts with her she was understandably very jealous about this new little one taking Mommy's attention. Knowing my daughter needed to continue; I tandem nursed them both until she was two in the hopes that a nurturing and loving bond could be created between them from the very beginning. It was a wonderful experience for everyone. There were days when nursing them together was the only time she was able to look lovingly at her brother and not seem to be feeling resentment.

In hindsight, maybe I was becoming a micromanaging parent even then, but her tenacity and determination at the tender age of two necessitated my own vigilance. In addition, my mama bear instinct to protect my infant combined with my knowledge of early childhood elicited a continuous commentary toward my daughter around nearly everything she was doing, saying, trying, or even refusing. Of course, I thought I was trying to encourage, support, guide, correct and instill in my daughter the means to be kind, compassionate, courageous, and articulate, but there are now too many days when I feel like I've enabled a manipulative, headstrong, and mouthy bully. Yikes!

When my daughter started preschool she didn't want me to leave her and was even more resentful of her brother because he would have all my attention while she was there. As her communication skills became more efficient she developed a verbal stream of consciousness that was predominately targeted at her brother under the pure guise of teaching. As in, I'm your big sister and I can tell you / show you how. (This was a frequent phrase in our house.) It was very cute and it was encouraged then as a means for them to bond. It has been extremely difficult however, for both of them, to break the habitual pattern of big sister will help or do for little brother in order to transition to the capable, articulate, and extremely bright little brother can and will do, think, say and feel for himself while the big sister lets him. Unfortunately, I believe a cycle of learned helplessness was created in those early years for my son.

James Lehman has a great article in EP entitled, The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings which I would recommend if any of you are facing something more than sibling rivalry. I have found it extremely challenging to determine how much of my kids interactions are typical developmental family growing pains and how much might be something more.

Are any of you out there facing the same thing? Where do you draw the line?


About Melody

Melody is a wife and mother of three beautiful children ages 9, 8, and 3 years, each with their own challenges. A certified teacher, now a stay-at-home mom and family daycare provider, her days are filled with activity that engage a tremendous measure of energy, stamina, and courage! Melody blogs at My Twisted Stitches and is also a parent blogger for Empowering Parents.

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