Ever have an ugly sibling rivalry scene?

Two of my boys - 10 and 12 years old - go after each other once in a while and my SO and I have a tough time keeping perspective. Sometimes I think that’s what kids are supposed to do, sometimes I think they’re the two craziest people ever. It’s mostly verbal, and for that matter it’s mostly trivial, but it can be physical also. Neither one has ever done lasting damage; the worst is that one of them had a pretty bad scrape on his foot and his brother stomped on it about once a day for about a week. But probably the worst thing about it is how constant it can be at times. Sometimes when we’re in the car they average about one insult every 30 seconds or so.

I don’t think it will ever come to this, but sometimes we think it would be a good idea to send either one away to a boarding school ASAP. The younger one is applying for middle schools this year and we are definitely leaning away from sending him to the same school as his brother, even though it’s a great school.

And then there’s the optimistic side of me that remembers that many friends have told me about growing up fighting like cats and dogs with siblings as if it were all a big joke. They don’t seem to think of it as a big deal.

Any suggestions? Would it be too extreme to send one of them away? At what point might you consider that?

What were your experiences? You and your siblings? Your kids? How did things work out in the long run?

My sister and I have a two year age difference too.

When we were really young we got along great. When we got closer to the age your boys are now we began to fight - a lot. We hated each other from middle school till adulthood. As young adult we went our separate ways and hardly even spoke to each other except for family events. We did get along fine at the family events though.

In the past few years our relationship has become really close. It happened slowly, but now we talk to each other on the phone a few times a week and really enjoy each other’s company. We even joke about our past rivalry. I guess sometimes you just gotta grow up.

My only suggestion is to make sure that you and your SO both spend time with the boys individually. Treat them as individuals. They aren’t the same person and aren’t going to always want the same things. Make sure that when there are compromises one boy isn’t always the one having to give in while the other gets what he wants. Emphasize their own special talents and interests. Giving them some time apart is also a good idea.

They sounds normal to me. The sibling wars between my sister and me are one reason I opted to have only one child. I’m five years older than she is, and I will admit that when she was little, I started it most of the time. By the time she was six or seven, the fighting was much more even (ultimately, she got WAY bigger than me!) We also have two younger brothers, and while my sister and I very rarely tangled with either of them, they tangled with one another constantly.

This is just MHO, but I think sending one kid away sounds pretty extreme, and I woudn’t personally do it unless someone was in dire phyical danger. And, how would you choose which ONE to send away? I’d worry that whichever one went would feel dismissed, and would resent the one who stayed home. And that the one who stays home would feel like he was more wanted. YMMV.

By sending one of them away, do you mean to their room or to something like boarding school?

If the former, I think they should both be sent to their rooms - or to separate rooms if they happen to share one. The latter would be something that would come up if there were emotional problems that led to the rivalry - or a child who would thrive in the environment.

I have three brothers, and the older two and I were all about 2 years apart (with me as the youngest), so we had some sibling rivalry going on. When we were little, we got along fine, because we could be set to similar tasks that were neither too hard for the youngest or too babyish for the oldest. We hit a point when we were around 8, 10 and 12 that we really couldn’t do anything together without fighting, because the oldest wanted to do other things, the second one wanted to follow him around and be with his friends, and I just didn’t want to be alone, so I followed them around like a pest.

It got better when we got into our own interests, and our own things that we were good at, because we weren’t competing for the same thing. If your boys play sports, you might try to see if they can be on different teams (even if they play the same sport) - although that might make your schedule too crazy, just so they can not be each other’s brother all the time.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that verbal abuse can not cause lasting damage.

I’m turning 40 in October. I don’t speak to my 42 year-old brother but I am seeing a therapist about his abuse of me from when we were kids.

Plan B, I am not a parent, but I am a teacher, and I believe there are some parallels. What you have to keep in mind is that you are the boss, not them. If you find their behavior unacceptable, then it is up to you to change it by providing consequences to them.

Brother A stomps on Brother B’s injured foot? That’s physical harm, which is unacceptable. Therefore, he needs to apologize in a meaningful way to his brother and either spend some time on an unpleasant task or lose a privilege. Brothers A and B swap mean and hurtful insults in the car? Then, depending on what your destination is, they don’t get to go. Obviously, if it’s the dentist, they still go, but choose another place they don’t want to miss out on.

The trick - and it’s not really a trick - is to make your expectations as clear as possible and then be absolutely consistent in applying consequences. It will create a great deal of work for you at first, and it will be even more unpleasant than witnessing the abuse they heap on each other. At first. After a while, when they learn their boundaries and find that you will smack them down (figuratively!) every time they cross the line, they’ll settle down.

My brother and I fought like cats and dogs from birth to highschool. While in highschool we had some of the same friends and got along ok. After high school, he went into the army and we haven’t spoken much since. He would be anyone I have nothing in common with. I know it bothers our mom, but I don’t have any reason (motavation?) to change the situation.

My brothers and I bicker all the time – it’s just the dynamic of our relationship. I’m 20 and they’re 18 and 16. Sure, we’re old enough to know better. We don’t mean any of that horribly insulting crap we say to each other. We’ve always ragged on each other like that.

In our younger days, it would sometimes dissolve into physical violence, but now we generally stick to verbal attacks. IIRC, we stopped duking it out when we were a little bit older than your sons. So, the end may be nigh. :slight_smile: Even with the verbal stuff, it’s understood that none of us think that the insultee actually is illiterate or actually likes to eat dog turds or the insulter actually would consider selling the insultee into slavery, just see what his actual worth was. (Yes, we are astonishingly immature. And we love it.)

I would also say that sending one away to boarding school sounds extreme with the information you’ve given us so far. My brothers and I went to the same school until the first two of us graduated from high school. It was small (less than 300 kids in the high school), and we managed to avoid each other entirely for most of the day. If we saw each other in the hallway or whatever, we might say hello or ask a question if we had a pressing one, but otherwise we didn’t interact. Of course, by the time we were that far into puberty, our interests had split far enough that, while we had similar senses of humor, we liked different topics and our pools of friends didn’t overlap much. In middle school, our grades were all so self-contained we didn’t see each other at all.

Condensed version: They’ve hit the bickering age and it’ll drive you nuts, but they most likely will grow out of it. Encourage them to develop seperate interests and friends and maybe they’ll strike a common ground/pursuit that they can enjoy together, though it may take years. Siblings like to push each other’s buttons.

It would worry me if one was clearly the instigator in every situation and he acted like that even towards his friends.

Out of interest, are you an only child, Plan B?

I read the title and thought you meant siblings competing over who’s uglier.

Well anyway, there wasn’t really much of a rivalry between me and my older sister, but just a lot of beatings and general sadism on her part. Even though I was clearly the victim in our relationship, I don’t hold any grudges.
Judging from that, I really don’t think it’s necessary to send one of them to a different school. Fighting with siblings or getting beat up by one (in my case) is just a part of growing up. They probably implicitly know even at that age, their brother is one of the few people in the world they can truly rely on if need be.

I would say you should go with your gut feeling. If you feel the boys should have some time apart, maybe you should arrange that every once in a while. My sister and I are two years, two months apart and at 10 and 12 we fought a lot too. Nothing that would cause lasting damage. In the summers, my grandparents would let one kid at a time visit for a weekend, so I think that helped my parents deal with us a bit. :slight_smile: Just make it clear that you won’t tolerate hurting - I would come down on whoever did the foot-stomping with some sort of punishment.

I think my sister and I started having separate interests around the age of 11 or 12, so I wouldn’t worry. Sending them to the same school will probably be fine, as they’ll find their niche. They won’t admit it, but it’s reassuring to know that your sibling is at the same school. We’ve had some spats, but I love my sister and she’s fun to be with.

I have three younger brothers. I didn’t get along with any of them, and they fought constantly. We get along fine now.

My husband has four brothers. His childhood appears to have been one long fistfight, although usually cheerful. Some of his stories include: his older brother’s habit of punching his shoulder until he couldn’t use his arm, accidentally putting his younger brother into a wall (right between the studs), and a time when the others locked him out of his room and played on his computer–until he went outside and threw every breaker, thus turning off the power, and then he went and kicked the door in.

(Now, they were in quite cramped quarters and had to share space, so that probably didn’t help. And DangerDad wishes me to inform everyone that the violence was entirely self-taught and his home was not abusive.)

DangerDad is close to his two closest-in-age brothers, and gets along fine with the youngest. He and the other one are not close, but that’s because (to quote) “he’s a dumbhead.” I can vouch for that–brother#4 is really a jerk.

Anyway it’s remarkable how much brothers can fight and still love each other, though there are certainly cases that need some serious help. I don’t know if this is one of them or not, but I doubt that boarding school is necessary. Giving them time away from each other if possible, yes.

I’ve heard some evil-minded strategies to train kids to fight less, from sending them to each other’s rooms until they’re ready to shake hands, to establishing ‘class-time’ and having them (for example) spend their favorite TV show’s time slot practicing something you want them to do correctly (say, setting the table together) until they can do it politely and without complaining or fighting. Or you can have them spend the time they make you waste in refereeing fights in doing extra house chores, thus making up the time to you. There are a million ideas out there, some of which may even work for you; try looking around a bit before you decide to get really drastic.

Thanks for all the helpful and interesting responses. I only have a couple of minutes rigtht now. I’ll respond to all of the questions by Wednesday.

I’ve never done it or seen it done, but here’s an idea: Have them wash opposite sides of a window. Supposedly, they won’t be able to finish without busting a gut.

My parents frowned on bickering between my brother and I. If we were caught insulting each other, we were both sent to our rooms, regardless of who started it. Their idea, which I completely sympathize with, was that people who live in the same house have to treat other respectfully. “You don’t have to like your little brother, but you can’t insult him.”

You’re the grown-up, Plan B; it’s up to you to set the rules. If they can’t be in the car for 30 seconds without insulting each other, turn the car around and go home. Just because they’re siblings doesn’t mean they don’t have to behave like civilized human beings.

Occasional arguements and bickering, maybe even a rare bout of hitting would be normal. Constant insults and other verbal abuse and week long bouts of physical abuse does not sound normal to me. If that were happening between my boys, I’d be looking for some family counseling.

I have two younger brothers that are two and four years younger than me. From when I was nine til about sixteen we fought. Sometimes it was physical, and we’d slap or kick or punch, but mostly is was verbal. We’d niggle at each other, or two would gang up on one, or we’d just silently hate each other. My parents would send us outside if we fought, or into our rooms if we were yelling, but other than that there wasn’t much they could do.

Then, when I was sixteen, I started talking to Sam, two years younger. It turned out we had a bit in common. We liked similar bands. We liked similar books. We were the same sort of funny. Gradually, we became friends. When I moved out of home, I started inviting him to paties we had at the flat. We wound up with friends in common. At some point, we becamne good friends.

Last year I decided I wanted to be better friends with my youngest brother. We’d stopped fighting, but we didn’t really get on. We didn’t have much in common, but I just started talking to him. He’s a dork when he’s with his friends (name a sixteen year old that isn’t), but when he’s not being a homie-gamngsta-whiteboy-wannabe, he’s good company.

Sending them to seperate schools might not be so bad - We haven’t all been to the same school since I was ten, but sending them away from eachother for good seems a little extreme. If the younger boy wants to go to the same school as his brother, not letting him go seems to be handing him a lot of fuel for sustained resentment, especially if that’s the school his friends are going to.

This is something we’ve been doing for a long time. The boys are much different, so that’s been a necessity. For the most part I think it’s worked pretty well.

Coin toss?

BTW what does YMMV stand for?

I agree about lasting damage. That’s why I’'m trying to fix it now. Hope you work things out OK and have a great future, with or without your brother.

Plan B - YMMV means “Your mileage may vary.”