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Please help! Sibling rivalry hell...

(16 Posts)
babblington Tue 11-Jan-11 19:37:38

This might be a bit long and rambly- sorry in advance. I have 2 daughters, 6 1/2 and 4 1/2 and one son, just turned 2. The girls fight continually, exhaustingly from morning til night. The 4 year old is bright, popular, out going, attention seeking. The 6 year old in hyper sensitive, takes everything too seriously, is average academically (although artistic) and can't stand that her little sister seems so able. The 4 year old constantly winds up her older sister, and even when she isn't the older interprets her behaviour as being malicious. I am sick of refereeing all the time. I can't stand being around them when they fight and whine and niggle at each other all the time, but I'm aware I've somehow created this situation and I have no idea how to stop it. I am at home with them as my husband travels away a fair bit, so I know they are all desperately attention/approval seeking from me, but frankly I feel like running away - I wake up they fight, I drop them at school they fight, I pick them up from school and they just pick up where they left off until bedtime. The 6 year old particularly engineers arguments with me, again to get attention but I feel like I am stuck in a rut of shouting at them now and I can't get out of it. I love them hugely and want to help and be there for them but I'm only one person and I can't everything for all of them all the time. Help!!! I'm sure I'm doing a million things wrong and you will all tell me what a terrible mother I am but I can't see light at the end of the tunnel right now.

babblington Tue 11-Jan-11 20:00:24


sarahfreck Tue 11-Jan-11 20:36:23

You are not a terrible mother! Do you have any friends with older DCs who may have been through this before and can offer advice. The only other things I can suggest - do you always get them doing things together? Can you find some time to spend with each of them one on one every week where they aren't competing for attention. Can you stagger bedtimes (even by 15 minutes) so that elder dd realises she has some privileges for being the eldest (but withdraw privilege for bad behaviour) can you rigorously pounce on "winding up" behaviour from either of them and "reward" it with time out so that the see it isn't worth it and they don't get attention from it?

IVB Wed 12-Jan-11 09:21:27

You could be describing my family - it's hell and I feel like a terrible mother too - husband is also away a lot. Agree with sarahfreck's suggestions and will try to implement a few. Although I have tried doing things separately with them, but that usually ends in a row because the one not involved will come along and sabotage things. The dynamics are slightly different as I have two boys aged 8 and almost 7. The eldest is the more capable/sporty one and the younger one more artistic and bookish. The eldest is becoming increasingly jealous of the younger one because the eldest always seems to be the one in trouble and as a result, he now feels as if he's being victimised and less loved than his younger brother and recently, I have tried to do all sorts of things to rectify this - i.e., doing activities he wants over the holidays, having his friends over for a playdate, spending more time at bedtime with him to talk about the day, etc. At the end, it has made no difference at all, and the more argumentative and defensive he becomes, the less sympathetic I am becoming, to the point that I don't like him very much right now. A terrible thing to say, but it's honest - I love him, but I just don't seem to be able to get on with him any more and it's making both our lives miserable. Babblington, I'm sorry I'm not offering you any advice - at least you know you are not the only one, but am starting to wonder if family therapy is where I need to go to next. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

babblington Wed 12-Jan-11 12:07:18

God IVB - exactly! I was thinking of family therapy - or therapy for the oldest - or just for me!! Or even parenting classes - I just need more in my armory than shouting/disapointment. I know exactly what you mean about losing sympathy - it's like you want to listen to their feelings/give them time but then they feel they can only get attention from being full of tiny woes and unneccesary miseries. What happened to my lovely sunny daughter? But clearly I've done this somehow so how do I UNDO it?! My husband is good at breaking the fights with humour but well, I'm not very funny(!) and in the middle of another scratchy little argument the last thing I want to do is laugh, but then I feel like I am a child myself or I am expecting them to be adults!

IVB Wed 12-Jan-11 12:52:55

Exactly, exactly. I keep telling myself that I need to grow up - particularly when I end up in some arguments with my eldest, but he's always picking fights. You are right in the sense that our children are what they are due to us, but I also feel there's some DNA involved too. I had a similar relationship with my sister - she always seemed to be the favoured one and my Gran always told me I was born with a chip on my shoulder .... so you see, it hurts even more thinking that in some way, I'm repeating this entire scenario with my own children. My husband also gets very wound up by the eldest child, but is adored by the eldest because he plays sports with him all the time. The guilt and feelings of inadequacy are immense. I might look into therapy, but don't really want to put my child in a chair - he would just end up feeling more picked on than he already is!

babblington Wed 12-Jan-11 13:16:00

Ahhhh...ditto again - replaying old family scenarios again and sister and I had very angsty relationships with each other and my very bipolar mother and I do feel like I've been here before, just replaying it - my oldest daughter being my sister and my youngest being me... but I had 7 years of therapy to get the the point where I can stand being in a room with my mother (she is a very good granny fwiw) and I don't want my daughter turning into the teenager I was!! I know it's a few years away but I can see the way it is going... I feel like I'm losing her and sometimes I don't even care. That sounds very dramatic!

moid Wed 12-Jan-11 13:23:00

Me to DS1 (9) and DS2 (7) - always fighting, hitting, calling each other names -AAAAAARGGGGH

Try this book 53407054/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294838418&sr=8-1

It so works, can't say we have cracked it but occassionally we remember to use the techniques and they work grin

mamsnet Wed 12-Jan-11 14:20:22

There is also another book by the same authors called Sibling Rivalry. I've found that one even better.

There was a lot of sibling rivalry in my own family. Years of pondering and analysing (and the aforementioned book) have convinced me that a lot of it was to do with our parents not making the time/ effort to see us and treat us as the incredibly different individuals we were and are.

I'm paranoid about my own children doing the same. They're too small to tell yet, really. But I'm working on it.

FWIW It really does sound like you need a good break!

marge2 Wed 12-Jan-11 14:27:33

Me too.. me too. Can I join in the rant?? I have 2 DSs. 7 and 5 - only 21 months apart - EVERYTHING you all said basically!!!! I HATE being their Mum at the moment. It's so BORING constantly refereeing. I fought with my middle brother - 15 months younger than me. We get on fine now, but we must have given my own Mum Hell. Watching for advice!! I am going to get that book!

IVB Wed 12-Jan-11 14:28:10

Thanks for the link, moid - just spent a while 'looking inside' the book on Amazon. Then I realized I have another book written by them called 'Siblings without Rivalry' sitting on my bedside table. Unfortunately, I never get around to reading these books - although this one has probably had more use than say another one I got called 'Compassionate Parenting', which still looks brand new! I find the trouble with any of these books is remembering what you are supposed to say to them when trouble strikes, and quite frankly, much of the time it sounds false or I don't have the mental capacity or patience to communicate differently! Babblington, you sound like you've had quite a challenging life ... funnily enough, I too worry about what my eldest will be like as a teenager because he already behaves like a belligerent one now. Unlike you, I don't have to worry about him turning into me as a teenager and I give thanks for that, but perhaps a male form would be worse, come to think of it ...

mamsnet Wed 12-Jan-11 14:36:32

IVB I don't really see the use of the books being in saying things in a certain way so much as a general overall rethink of my attitude to my children and how I can teach them to be nice to each other.
For example, I firmly believe that my parents lumped us in together (the Girls) as opposed to seeing us as very different people who were valuable each in their own way. I would really recommend you reread.. There are exercises at the beginning asking you to analyse your own personal experience first; I found those hugely helpful.

IVB Wed 12-Jan-11 16:43:35

Yes, I know what you mean about the book and had planned to spend some more time with the Sibling Rivalry book this week as well as finding the 'Bringing up Boys' book that I read when my first was just born and was completely irrelevant at the time and now forgotten!
My parents were and still are wonderful and caring people, so I don't have issues about them, but am very aware that we all tend to slot into certain roles in our families. My boys are totally different, so even if I wanted to, could never ignore that fact. Hopefully, by revisiting these books, I might get some inspiration.

kbaby Wed 12-Jan-11 23:00:46

Mine are the same ds4 and dd6. I get fed up of the constant argueing and tell tails.

Its so much easier when they are playing alone. DD seems to enjoy telling on DS and DS seems to enjoy winding her up.

I just keep telling myelf that all siblings are the same and ive grabbed onto some research I found that siblings who argue are more accomodating of others faults and are more likely to try ways of creating harmony when they are adults. Therefore I keep thinking the argueing they do now are building life skills

marge2 Wed 12-Jan-11 23:08:02

Well all the arguing I did with my brother built life skills for him I reckon I did pretty well for him (..or maybe not depending on your point of view!!) He is now one of the "love-to-hate-them" super rich Goldman Sachs bankers so maybe there's hope of a decent career for one of my two!

carolinefromhackney Thu 22-Sep-11 22:03:59

I wondered, a few months on, whether the books written about in this thread had helped and where you are all at now. I am experiencing much the same with my nearly 5 year old and nearly 7 year old girls and would love to know what happened next especially with babblington!

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