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How to deal with sibling rivalry

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Stopping sibling squabbles

I hear there are families out there where the siblings get along beautifully at all times. There is no teasing or poking, just love and support at all times. I've never met one of these families myself, and I am starting to wonder if they are really a faerie tale meant to make the rest of us feel bad. I refuse to feel bad, though.

Brother Yelling at SisterOkay, maybe I feel a little bad. It seems like no matter what I do, there is an undercurrent of poking one another between Alfs and Woody. Call it teasing, call it poking, call it whatever. It's that interaction that runs the fine line between okay and not so okay.

Button pushing experts

No one, it seems, can push your buttons like your family member. Heck, they probably created the buttons in the first place! My siblings do it to me, I admit doing it to them (only a little though). I recognize that as the kids are growing up and learning about this world, they practice behaviors and such - good and not so good - on each other. As parents we need to guide them as to what is okay and not so okay.

 

Lately though, the teasing/poking/annoying seems to be taking a more intense turn. As parents, my husband and I are spending more time breaking up the less than positive interactions. We are trying to figure out why this is happening now and what we can do about it. So far we're at a bit of a loss.

 

Is something else going on?

While teasing among siblings is fairly common, sometimes teasing by one sibling to another becomes excessive. In this case, there may be something else going on - it may be more than just the usual sibling stuff.

 

It may be time to take each of the kids aside and have a calm talk with them about the behaviors that are causing the most problems. Talk about what else is going on in your child's life. Is there something at school that is bothering them, and they are just taking out that stress on a convenient target? Is there some other stress? Can you mitigate that stress?

 

Talk about the kind of behavior you expect from your child, and in a positive way. Reiterate that you believe in their ability to make the good choices. Brainstorm ways to help that happen. But also be clear about consequences for not working at improving the situation.

 

Break a cycle - or a circumstance

Perhaps everyone just needs to get out of the current environment and see and do something new. While I hate to feel like I am rewarding less than ideal behaviors by taking the kids out to do something particularly fun, sometimes that is exactly what we all need.

 

Maybe it's a movie or a trip to a museum or a hike or something. Maybe it's finding a friend and getting together at a playground or something. Regardless of what it is, a change of scenery can help. Avoiding the situations in which the negative behaviors occur most often can do wonders.

 

Sometimes nothing works

In some senses, this kind of behavior just happens. If it's not overly destructive and both sides seem to be holding their own, maybe it just needs to happen. It's not my favorite scenario, but occasionally it seems to be the right choice. The boys (eventually) work it out on their own.

 

If nothing seems to be working, perhaps just backing off for a little bit is the right thing to do. In which case, I recommend and iPod and a nice glass of Pinot Grigio.

 

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