Brothers fighting and arguing all the time . . .

Denise_NZJanuary 5, 2002

I have four boys aged 14, 13, 11 & 9. We are in the middle of our summer break - they don't go back to school until the very end of January.

My problem with them at the moment is really getting me down. They are constantly at each other. It's just niggle, niggle, niggle. They have also become very disrespectful to each other, call each other names - dumb, fat, stupid - where do they get this from? We don't say things like that to them! And needless to say - none of them are dumb OR fat!

I intend to hold a family meeting today to discuss this. Does anyone have any suggestions for me before I do this? I try to do things positively - they earn computer time through good behaviour and getting their jobs done etc. But even that chart has got more lines on it than ticks at the moment.

They normally don't get this way with each other until alot closer to the end of the holidays LOL This is far too soon.

Any suggestions gratefully received . .



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I only have two kids-a girl and a boy and thankfully they get along really well most of the time so I don't have very much wisdom to share with you but I do know from my friends that have all boys that this is a very common issue with boys. Two of my friends have read a book about sibling rivalry that was written by the same woman who wrote "How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk. I can't remember her name but someone else on this forum will because alot of us have read that book. Anyway, they both commented how implementing the strategies in that book totally changed the dynamics of their childrens interactions. One thing I have done when my kids pick at each other is to explain to them how much it hurts ME to see them behaving that way because I love each of them so much and because they will have and know each other longer than anyone else and they will need each other when they are older. (I also tell them frequently to be nice to each other because some day they will need the other one to babysit their kids! They, of course, don't care about long term stuff like that but the humor helps.) Another thing I did that has helped to make my children closer is to include a "random act of kindness for your brother" (or sister) on their chore chart for every day. It was hard for them to think of something at first but eventually they caught on and had lots of great ideas. My kids don't get to watch TV or do anything else fun until their chores are done including that one so they have some incentive. Anyway, now they really have something to appreciate the other one for everyday and it has really brought them closer together. Other people will have even better suggestions than me but try not to lose to much sleep over it--my sister and I fought constantly when we were younger and wouldn't have anything to do with each other until after college and now we are very close. I do think most kids grow out of it and your boys probably will too. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2002 at 3:06PM
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Thanks for that encouragement. I will go looking for that book at the Library tomorrow. I am sure too that they will outgrow this stage, but in the meantime IT'S MAKING ME CRAZY!!!! LOL (kinda)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2002 at 5:51PM
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I have a short term solution that works with my girls (ages 4 and 8). I think I read about it on this forum. Your boys may be too big or refuse to do it. When the bickering and picking gets too much I make my girls hug or hold hands and look into each others eyes. It kind of shocks them out of the moment and the usually start laughing. The bickering usually subsides for a couple of hours.

Are you able to watch Fox TV's Malcom in the Middle show in NZ? It's about a crazy household with 4 boys. The mother usually has some "creative" discipline techniques!

    Bookmark   January 6, 2002 at 9:05AM
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DH and his brother used to fight all the time growing up, they are 3 years apart. Even got into a fist fight as teens and their mom broke a broom over their backs trying to break it up, that made them stop and laugh. Needless to say they were still always there for each other and are the best of friends now, they just drove each other nuts sometimes unless they were doing something fun together. Their Mom just let it go and allowed them to work it out for themselves. The sisters were the same and they are best of friends now too.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2002 at 11:14AM
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I tell my kids that if they had plenty of chores they wouldn't have time or energy to fight. When they start fighting too much I give them extra chores to do. Works like a charm. They also never say the "b" word (bored), that is a sure-fire ticket to scrubbing bathrooms and mopping floors.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2002 at 3:00PM
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My brother and I were the worst - pick pick pick, until there was a fight.

We outgrew it.

But I was at a baby shower this weekend where the grandma-to-be and the aunt-to-be (both 50-ish) picked and picked at each other until the other one sulked or stomped off. It was like seeing me and my brother at 12 again :-)

So funny to witness that!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2002 at 8:28AM
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4 siblings have their own mini society within the larger family. It looks like they're adolescents too, so they are having their own internal changes to cope with as well as anything imposed.

They will all have their own 'space' needs. They will all have their own 'autonomy' needs and needs to be and to be seen by the others as 'indidivuals.' And, there is a larger family structure they all have to fit into so things can flow well for everyone. Breaks from school can mean more time having to be in closer proximity and without the 'relief' of a regular school routine.

If they don't have already, encourage them to develop their own hobby interests and skill-profiles. That way they can all clearly have an area of expertise. Make sure you give them individual sincere personalized compliments when they do _anything_ you can notice that is worth one. That is, begin giving them effective positive messages so they can feel what it feels like to earn/get positive notice. That can help reinforce things like them wanting to get more of that. It's more personal than a chart although using both can be a good idea.

If you want to drive change, a change for 4 developing adolescents, a family dynamic and all when things have sort of already gotten to a head for you; plan to be patient and determined. This sort of thing can be done. Left alone, a natural dynamic will sort of evolve to become stable over time. That may or may not be a dynamic that is later wanted. It sounds like your situation is at that point, and you want to institute change. When there is an overall 'system' and all the people have fit together in a particular way, change is difficult and will feel unnatural at first for everyone. If you have great difficulty with the process or follow-through, or if you just want some interim support and confidential advice consult a family counselor (finding one you can work with well may require trying or interviewing more than one).

It eventually takes years to develop a new solid stable pattern. People shouldn't just change overnight, so try to notice little positive changes so you can try to reinforce them. If you need support along the way, or want more adult insight on your side consider seeing a family therapist. You can try to troubleshoot 'human needs' so that everyone can have those met.

P.S. Intrasibling stuff can be problematic. The different siblings have different developmental needs, and can have very different temperaments. They all benefit from interaction, but all have needs for their own 'space' and self-reflection too. The oldest is significantly older than the youngest, so things that are 'developmentaly' fair and reasonable may not be at all perceived as fair or reasonable by all the siblings. They all probably enjoy the company of their age-peers. Their siblings, at times probably feel more or less 'developed.' When they feel chafed, they probably can easily fall into mild insults and poking at each other verbally, or physically.

P.P.S. If you want to drive the change, you will have to change the way you act/react. Try to define your goals. Refine that, so it can be clear and understandable and workable for everyone in the group. Think about how you can foster that change. How can your behavior help your sons change more effectively so your family can experience a new dynamic? When you have clarity on this that will help a lot.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2002 at 12:11PM
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Thank you everyone for your insights. We had a family meeting on Sunday night, discussed the situation. Suggested things that we thought could help make life easier and happier. Everyone had their own input, although a couple of the boys were a bit grumpy about it and didn't really have much to say, but did listen to everyone elses thoughts.
DH and I have things that we need to do too. Our children are only children for so long, sometimes we tend to forget how much attention they need.
Amygdala - so much wonderful information you have given. Thank you. Starting on more positiveness today. Printing everything out to read again - appreciate everyones replies.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2002 at 2:42PM
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