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Sibling Bickering: Will it Ever End?

Author: Jessica Woolwine
Published Date: Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It is a war zone in my house.

On the left, in the pink polka dot dress weighing in at 41 pounds, is Abby “Stop It!” Bensten. On the right, with five permanent teeth and tall enough to ride a roller coaster, is Jackson “Leave Me Alone!” Bensten.

Ever since the beginning of spring break, a.k.a. forced bonding time, these two siblings have been at it like cats and dogs. Only way worse.

These two are fighting over everything. This week’s arguments have included:

  • Who gets to go down the stairs first
  • Who says “poop” too much
  • Who thinks the Easter Bunny is coming again
  • Who should tell the dog, “no”
  • Who should be the one to say the blessing at dinner
  • Who gets to eat the last sprinkle donut
  • Who their baby brother likes more
  • Who gets to push the cart at Target

If it’s up for debate, it will be debated. If it’s up for grabs, you better be quick.

I’ve often said that having a sibling is life’s introduction to dealing with difficult people. I should know; I have a brother and sister of my own. These days, my siblings and I get along really well. Maybe it’s because we’re adults with jobs, bills and kids of our own. Or maybe it’s because the need to be on each other’s side outweighs the need to eat the last donut. It gives me hope that one day my kids will be friends.

Right now, however, I might as well invest in referee training.

Being a mom is hard. I don’t like picking sides; I’d rather them try to problem solve on their own. But you know what they say about desperate times.

To reduce the volume, tears and my stress level, I’ve tried different techniques to see if one works better at reducing the bickering. A few of my approaches include:

  • Positive reinforcement: “We’re going to go to the park because you guys didn’t fight during the five minutes we were at the grocery store getting milk.”
  • Consequences: “Turn the TV off. If you are going to fight over what you watch, then you’re not going to watch anything.”
  • Reverse Psychology: “Jackson really wants you to play with his Legos. Oh, you’d rather play with your dolls?”
  • The Get-Along Shirt: Truth be told, I haven’t tried this yet. Keyword: yet. Have you heard of it? You take an extra large t-shirt and have both kids wear it together until they decide to get along. This was obviously the brain child of a parent on the edge.

At the end of the day, it’s really not all bad. There are glimmers of hope. As brother and sister, yes, they fight, but they also have fun together. Even with a four-year age difference, I recognize the same mischievous streak. When they laugh together – really laugh – it warms my soul.

And to see Abby’s face light up when Jackson comes downstairs on Saturday morning, it’s like she’s seeing her favorite person in the whole world. I love it.

Well, that is, until he eats her sprinkle donut. Then all bets are off.

View Squelching Sibling Squabbles, or one of our FREE parenting resources here.

About Jessica Woolwine

Jessica Woolwine is a native of Hampton Roads and lives in Hampton with her three “miracles” Jackson (9), Abby (5) and Henry (1). As a mother to a childhood cancer survivor and a micro-preemie, she began the blog Mothering Miracles in 2014 to support other families dealing with health issues. Jessica also works as Creative Director for Rubin Communications Group and enjoys mixing her talents for graphic design and creative writing with community relations. She is a past member of both the CHKD Family Advisory Council and the CHKD NICU Family Advisory Council.