Friday, March 27, 2015

Sibling Bickering


Sibling bickering.

Let's talk about it.

I can already hear someone thinking, "Lady, you have four children. Why is this something new?"

Well, yes. We do have four children. But when you whittle it down to the basics, we really haven't had an interactive group of children for very long.

Our second-born child has severe special needs. Our fourth-born is an infant. Our third-born is quite young, and only became a playmate (and competitor) over the past year or so. So really, the issue of sibling quarreling and bickering has only recently entered our family.

But it's a doozy.

I suppose I've seen it coming for some time. A gradual escalation. "Hmm, that's interesting (and somewhat concerning), but what on earth do I do about it?"

The older child has taken on "annoying big brother" traits - bossiness, controlling, tattling.

In response, the younger child has taken on adaptive "annoying little brother" traits (which I previously thought existed only in fiction) - taunting, teasing, mimicking, screaming.

And over the past few months, it's really gotten worse. The past few weeks have been pretty awful. It has reached the point where I actually cannot leave these two children alone together, because there will be screaming within two minutes (at the outside).

And unfortunately, as in any area of parenting, scolding simply doesn't work. They just look at you blankly and go right back to the negative behaviors the next chance they get.

This problem reminds me (frighteningly!) of when our eldest child turned two and we were hit with the reality of hardcore parenting issues when the terrible twos hit. In other words, "Oh, shoot. We're really in trouble now."

Parenting has emphatically not come easily for me, and each new phase has found me struggling to find my feet and learn the requisite parenting skills. Thankfully I no longer feel quite so at sea as I once did in parenting an individual child. Teaching obedience, giving consequences, etc. - it's still difficult, but it's no longer overwhelming. (Thankfully.)

But parenting the relationship between two children - well, it's blindsided me. I can require a child to relate well to me - but when two children are refusing to relate well to each other? That is indeed a sticky proposition.

I have the feeling that I'm in for another learning curve. But it's one that I've got to conquer, and I need to do it thoroughly. Because two children intent on spending every waking moment squabbling have the potential to make the entire family miserable.

The good thing is that I am determined. In other words, I've had it up to HERE with this issue. I'm willing to do what it takes to dive in and deal with it, because this situation cannot continue.

What am I doing about this issue?

Firstly, I'm praying fervently for wisdom and guidance.

Secondly, I'm discussing the issue with my husband. He is completely on board and is working alongside me to confront this issue.

Thirdly, I'm asking experienced mamas for advice. (Thank you so much to those of you who have already left advice in the comments and via email. I really appreciate it.) I'm compiling all the advice I receive into a document so that I can have it ready when I need to review - which will be often.

Fourthly, I am tomato staking - keeping one or both of the children involved close to me as often as I can (unless they're with my husband). I have learned the unfortunate fact that these two cannot be trusted to be alone right now. Thus, when I go to nurse the baby, one of them comes with me. When I'm in the kitchen, one or both of them comes with me. It's tough, but that's the way it's got to be right now.

Fifthly (is that a word?), I am doing my best to be diligent with discipline. Sometimes in the past when I've heard bickering, my response has been to duck my head and hope they'll work it out on their own. Guess what - that approach doesn't work. At all. It just gets worse. So when I'm foolish enough to leave them alone and I hear the predictable screaming, I turn around and dive right in to figuring things out and dealing with it. That in itself is rather difficult, but I'm doing my best.

I'm also working to incorporate character training into our daily read-alouds and morning time, as well as to focus our Bible memory work on verses about character, and about peacemaking versus fighting, etc.

Lastly, I'm reading all the books and blog posts that I can get my hands on. See below for some of my finds. (Feel free to share more.)

We'll see where this goes, and if I can, I'll update. In the meantime, this is just an issue from the parenting trenches. Like all parenting issues, it's messy, sticky, confusing, and plain ol' hard.

But I'm going to do my best.

(And, lest you think that everything is perfectly awful around here, let me state that these little guys are wonderful children whom I enjoy thoroughly. This is just one aspect of life around here that needs to be dealt with, but thankfully there are lots of wonderful and positive aspects as well.)

Here are some resources I am using:


Raising Godly Tomatoes

Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes - in You AND Your Kids

Shepherding a Child's Heart (Thanks for the recommendation, Deborah!)


The Common Room:
Article collection

Raising Olives:
Building Strong Sibling Relationships
Solving Sibling Squabbles

Life in a Shoe:
Sibling Relationships

Treasures from a Shoebox:
Squashing Sibling Squabbles

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers! 


  1. I'm wishing you well with this. I think you are wiser than you realize, and your family is blessed for having you. :)

    1. Anne, your sweet words are just what I needed after a very difficult week! Thank you!!

  2. Don't underestimate the power of hugs.

    Also, sometimes I think that my kids act out to get attention -- they're sure to get some attention even if it's negative attention, if one makes the other cry or scream. It can be easy to overlook the emotional needs of children who don't "need" anything -- that is, they're generally independent and can do things themselves. But if the only way they can get your attention is by doing something bad, they'll do it.

    I'd recommend reading "The Heart of Anger" by Lou Priolo. Excellent book.

    1. Kathy, thank you for jumping in! It's been forever since you and I talked! I will certainly keep that in mind, and I'll check out that book too.

      Hope you and the boys are doing well!!


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