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Siblings: Must they Rival?

I had it.  Bad.  Sibling rivalry was very much alive in my childhood household.  We got physical.  Often.

Now that I have my two girls, I don't just don't know.  Is it normal?  Will even two saints of children encounter sibling rivalry?  What can we do to dissipate the aggression and frustration?  I try to stay calm, using a cool tone to repeat things like, "Respect your sister", when Philly tugs at Tati's hair just to annoy her or when Tati swats at her sister's face.  When one child is clearly in the wrong, I try to break it down for the one who's made the mistake, make her understand why what she did may be hurtful to the other.  I try to encourage apologies and kissing and making up.  But, will we ever have a fight-free day?

Sometimes Philly says things like, "But you always let Tati do X or do Z," which makes me think, "am I favoring the younger one disproportionately?"  I am figuring that, to an extent, it's only natural to nurture the younger one more and for the older one to take more poignant note.

This all mostly started when Tati was around 1.5 years old, when she started asserting herself, having an opinion, wanting things that her sister also wanted.  I started trying to have two of everything - two dollies, two strollers (well, I convinced Tati that the toy shopping cart actually doubles as a stroller), two balls for the yard, two identical backpacks, two fruit leathers at one time (a single fruit leather is pointless if both girls are present).  The 1:1 ratio is golden.

Share your tips, please!  What are your golden rules, great phrases, that I can use when there is turmoil betwixt my two little princesses? 

Of course, the most lovely thing about having a sibling is having an instant playmate.  Of late, the girls beg me to let them stay home all day so they can play.  I have no idea what they do upstairs, but they are increasingly spending more and more time in their imaginative play zones together.  As they get older, they are playing more and more together.

But, still, they fight.  Sometimes.  And, it can get ugly.


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my favorite phrase is "whose ass am i gonna kick?"
just kiddin'....i have two boys that antagonize each other, the older to the younger moreso, and i'm just as much lost...the constant whining is making my ears bleed....

I really want to reccomend the book Siblings Without Rivalry
here is a link to it on amazon:

It really sounds like you are needing some peace and really want your girls to love and respect each other. They are also growing more and more autonomous and need to assert this, so their behavior is completely natural and fine.
It happens to all of us, I have two girls too!

Try the book and keep asking these great questions, look for parents you see around that are doing things that you respect or wish for your kids. I learn so much from all the other parents out there.

We're in the thick of it! I can totally relate. My little guy, at nearly 1 years old, already knows how to push big brother's buttons. When Cole was less mobile, Carter wasn't as aware of his younger brother investigating the world around him, including his worldly posessions. But lately it's been a huge deal. I try to be fair to both boys, meaning that the rules are enforced with the two of them equally knowing that perhaps the little one may still be too young to understand. Right now, it feels like I do it more to get the point across to Carter that I'm trying not to "play favorites". However, I remain steadfast in trying to raise my kids in a way that attempts to minimize any sentiments of "favoritism". I'm also thinking that my older son probably needs more one-on-one time with me, and / or his father. For most of his life, he has been the recipient of undivided attention. And now, with another sibling in the picture, it's awfully hard sometimes to share that attention with someone else.

Oh, boy, we're in it, too. Sara, age 5, very sensitive and emotional. Josie, age 2.5, very willful and stubborn, but very caring. Sara hurts herself, Josie goes to offer comfort, Sara yells at her to go away, Josie screams! Sara grabs! Josie slaps!

It's surreal. I dont' remember EVER acting this way with my little sisters. If they start this when I am around, I get up and leave the room. My no longer being there is often enough to put the fire out. If I am out of the room when it starts, I ignore it, until one of them comes crying to me. At that point I ask what happened. Usually by the time the one is done tattling, the fight is defused. If the fight is over a toy, I will take it and put it where neither can reach it.

I suppose if I were a better mother I would spend some time trying to teach them peaceful ways to resolve conflict... but they are too young. They cannot listen when they are already upset. Once things calm down my husband and I will explain that if xyz happens, they need to come ask us for help first.
I read somewhere that you have to tell a child something like 300 times before they get it. We're only on 622...

It is really really stressful sometimes. We do as you do; we always make sure, whenever possible, that the impetus for argument is not there - they get the same amount, same kind, of just about everything. They each get special dates with mom and dad, wherein they get special stuff.

I mostly just try to stay calm.

I'm not sure how we'll handle time-outs and whatnot anyway, but what my mother always did when my brother and I were fighting would be to send both of us to our rooms. I used to resent that so much, because usually (in my memory, anyway) he was the antagonist - I could be supressing what a ridiculous pest and tattletale I was, but...

The problem with that solution was that no one was dealing with the conflict. We didn't learn to work it out for ourselves, nor was my mother acting as judge (which is not a role I look forward to, nor do I think it is always appropriate). The four-year gap in our ages meant someone needed to balance the scales a bit, but she just wanted quiet - didn't care what happened or if we felt it was fair. Now, life isn't fair, and all that, but I resented the hell out of her for a long time for the way she handled that. I hope I manage that better.

We recently received email from a mama who wrote:

"I'd love practical parenting advice on dealing with siblings close in age--mine are 22 months apart. My son is almost 3 and my daughter just turned 1, and he is so darn MEAN to her!! I feel like I am constantly refereeing their interaction. Mostly it is my son pushing her down when she tries to come and "share" toys, or him yelling at her, "NO BABY!" or doing other mildly aggressive actions (he has never really hurt her). Often I think it is an attempt to get my attention, but honestly he steals most of my attention away from my daughter anyways. I am tired of the negative vibe and constantly riding my son to "be kind to your sister." Obviously something is not getting through. Today we started a "Kindness Chart" and he gets stickers on it whenever we see him being a good helper or being kind. I hope that will change the attitude around. Is this just a stage? What have other parents done to purposefully cultivate good sibling relationships?"

Neither my partner nor I have what we would call good relationships with our siblings. We really want things to be different for our girls. Not that they need to be best friends but if they could be friendly that would be great.

We read the book Siblings Without Rivalry and we love it. It points out a lot of little things parents do that create jealousy and bad feelings. Likewise it gives tips to prevent this. We started using it when our oldest was four and the youngest not yet one, so it can easily apply to little kids.

So far we are really happy with how well they play together. It is early in their relationship but we feel we are helping to lay a good foundation. We had some of the dangerous behavior from the oldest to the youngest too. Some of it is a phase but I think you need to handle it correctly so it does not become an ongoing issue.

Good luck.

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