Bickering epidemic

Jun 20, 2008 at 12:02 a.m. ET

The boys have gone on a bickering epidemic that is driving me mad. Truly. It's non-stop, never-yielding, verbal and non-verbal poking at one another that is un-called for, inappropriate, and annoying. Sometimes even infuriating. Stop it, already.

Brothers Arguing
I know, of course, that bickering is a part of being siblings. I bickered with my siblings, my husband bickered with his brother. My friends bickered with their siblings, and my kids' friends bicker with their siblings. That doesn't make it any more enjoyable to listen to.

Nature or nuture?

I can only conclude that the bickering is an innate behavior. They kids don't see their parents bickering, after all, or any other family member. We are careful about their media intake. They seem to learn it by continued practice of it on one another, because the behavior wasn't modeled for them.

I have no idea how to stop bickering. Should I try? Should I try to let the bickering run its course? It's just so unpleasant, and can border on nasty. How far is too far?

I talk to the boys about mutual respect. I emphasize the Golden Rule, and when the behavior starts to degenerate I ask each if he is treating the other like he would want to be treated. Invariably the answer is no, I insist on an apology, and the bickering settles down.

For about 30 seconds.

Something else altogether?

It seems the kids bicker more when they are tired or when there is change afoot. As the family routine changes from school year to summer, the bickering over everything from the length of Woody's shorts to the relative cleanliness of Alfs' feet and everything in-between seems to have increased multi-fold. Lovely.

The bickering got so bad last weekend on the way home from an outing that we banned both of them from talking at all for an hour. We'd had a great day, but the kids were wiped out. Frankly we were, too, and we were in no mood to listen to the indignant tones in their voices as comments were volleyed back and forth. Perhaps this weekend, I'll insist on more down time and/or sleep time and see if that helps things. Meanwhile, separate rooms, boys. I've had enough.

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