Sibling Rivalry: The Age Wars

cartoon image of The Mercenary

One of the big things I want as a parent in this house is peace. And harmony. I want that too. Unfortunately, I gave birth to 4 humans who are….human. They don’t always get along.

Interestingly, the boys play together much better than I did with my siblings growing up. The younger ones can definitely be annoying on occasion, but they really don’t do a lot in terms of actual terrorism around here.

For the most part, they absolutely adore the older boys. Conflict usually arises when the 6 year olds can’t figure out how to act like 10 year olds and the older boys get impatient with them. The Mercenary in particular is a great micro-manager, and it’s gotten to the point where he opens his mouth and everyone’s hackles go up.

All that to say that this morning started as many do: with an argument at the table.
I’ve tried staying out of these issues as they build, but so far that has failed. They keep fighting until someone gets hurt. And the Captain in particular holds grudges, which can mean all-day sagas.

Today I lost my patience when things got overheated and declared that breakfast was over and sent them away. If they can’t get along nicely at the table, then off they go. I followed The Mercenary downstairs and tried to explain (again) that the younger boys aren’t trying to be annoying. They just want love and respect and validation, but they keep getting into power struggles by mistake.

After a lot of discussion, I gave him 3 steps to follow.

  • The Catchphrase: “Dude, that’s not cool” was what I suggested. The key is to deliver it calmly and without emotion if little brother makes a mistake.
  • The Wait: After delivering the catchphrase, look away for 2 full minutes, giving the little guy time to think of a new way to act.
  • Affirmation: Give little brother positive comments when he’s doing something you like or when he’s obviously trying to impress, even if it’s not as cool as something an older child would do.

It’s going to take time, but The Mercenary in particular has proven in the last several months that he is capable of improving and that he is actually listening to me. Today he participated in the conversation, so we’ll see what happens.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who suffer from sibling rivalry.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • register company philippines March 31, 2009, 4:12 am

    hehe. Cute little method. I think that doesnt work with other kids. Kids nowadays need to be disciplined in a little humane harsh way. I just think so. Thanks anyways.

    Reply
  • Sunny March 31, 2009, 3:20 pm

    I don’t know how you stay sane with 4 boys. My girl and her lil bro fight all the time and they’re pretty close in age. He’s like Godzilla and she’s the little fairy princess…

    Reply
  • number fan April 1, 2009, 2:09 pm

    I know what you may be going through,

    Reply
  • Baby Diaper Cake April 1, 2009, 9:36 pm

    You must be a supper mum to handle 3 boys! Sibling Rivalry can drive anyone mad.

    Reply
  • Play Kitchens April 2, 2009, 1:15 pm

    I loved your method. And I think it would work brilliantly. Staying calm is key. They pick up on everything and I love the positive affirmations. So important to reinforce good decisions.

    Reply
  • Sally from fast house sale April 3, 2009, 10:50 am

    Hi, this is my first visit to your site and I just wanted to say that the picture of your 4 boys at the top is really good. Can I ask if you designed that??

    Reply
  • Baby Wrap April 3, 2009, 11:58 pm

    I think that’s a fabulous approach… good for you. Not only are you covering the good feedback for the little guy, but the big guy gets to feel big and important for taking such a grown-up approach. Kudos!

    Reply
  • funny picture April 5, 2009, 12:36 pm

    Well written your experience.
    Now days kids need to be handled very carefully and with lot of love.

    Reply
  • catering wedding April 6, 2009, 1:45 am

    I don’t know how you manage all this but it hard to restraint four kid from being quarreled. good job dear.

    Reply
  • labor lawyer manila April 8, 2009, 5:07 am

    Parenting is really a hard task. But being a mother is very fulfilling. Everyone wants to experience being a mother. Even though your kids are still little, it would be better if you would not spoil them. You also need to discipline them so that when they grow old, they would still respect you.
    You have a very good method of being a mother. It would be easier for you discipline them – in a good way..

    Reply
  • Salaries Philippines April 13, 2009, 2:36 am

    Cool. It’s nice to know that there are parents who are giving so much effort in explaining things to their daughters/sons. The kids will remember that discussion and eventually, when they became parents, they will do the same thing with their kids. As a student like me, I used to hate my little brother for being so naughty and I used to scold him. But now that I have read this, I now know how to approach him.

    Thanks for sharing this. God Bless. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  • Leased staff April 14, 2009, 1:40 am

    Sibling rivalry is very common,because of different ages they seems to have different wants and attitude.
    As parents we should let them know that our treatment to them are equal.

    Reply
  • Free Web Templates April 14, 2009, 2:35 am

    Nice post

    Reply
  • Amy April 14, 2009, 10:55 pm

    register company philippines, you have a point. I’m trying to bridge the gap between young children who need lots of direction and older teens who can think and act for themselves. This strategy needs work, for sure. But hopefully it’ll cut down on boys smacking each other. I have seen them using their words before going to fists with more frequency of late, and I’m counting that as a good thing. Also, I’ve adopted the “that’s not cool” phrase and use it a lot in hopes that it’ll rub off on them.

    Sunny you’ll never catch me claiming sanity lol. I wonder if the closeness in age is part of why your kids fight. I am 2 years older than my brother and we fought ALL the time.

    number fan, do you have kids?

    Baby Diaper Cake, there are 4 boys lol. Interestingly they get along better when there are only 3 present at any one time. Usually odd numbers of kids means one is left out, but for my boys it works.

    Play Kitchens, thanks! We keep working at it.

    Sally from Fast House Sale thanks! The good people from Caricatures Now did the artwork, with our input. There’s a link in the contributors section of the sidebar if you want to see their site.

    Reply
  • Amy April 14, 2009, 11:11 pm

    Baby Wrap, thanks. πŸ™‚ That’s a great way to sum it up.

    Funny Picture, that’s true. Chocolate helps too.

    catering wedding, thank you. I can’t avoid the bickering completely, but we’re trying our best to at least cut it down. I’m not a fan of bickering.

    labor lawyer manilla, I have very high expectations for the boys. I try to balance that with love and understanding. We’ll see how they turn out in ten or twenty years.

    Salaries Philippines, good luck with your brother! We’re having a bit of success here, but it’s slow going.

    Leased staff, yes it is common. There’s good in treating the kids equally, but at the same time it’s not always best. I heard a great analogy once: 2 people go to the doctor complaining of stomach pain. One needs ulcer medication, while the other needs surgery. Should the doctor treat the patients “equally” or should they each get the treatment they need? I vote for the second option.

    Free Web Templates, thanks. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  • Employee leasing April 20, 2009, 6:14 am

    Kids will always be kids and sometimes they don’t know what they’re doing so it’s better to guide them as long as you can so that they will be on the right path until they grew older.

    Reply
  • KY's Commonwealth Eye Surgery May 8, 2009, 1:05 am

    such a lovely post
    You are such a cute mom

    Jennifer

    Reply