Through happenstance, I may have found a solution to our sons’ sibling rivalry.
My eldest son, Max, is a sweet-natured, good-humoured, considerate boy with everyone except his little brother. Max struggled with sharing his family from around six weeks after Tully was born. He realised that visitors no longer had much to say to him and I would be pretty occupied with this other person for a fair while.
Not a new story but a hard one to live, I couldn’t put Tully on the ground when he was a baby because Max would not hesitate in kicking, biting or pushing him. Once that push was down 13 steps. Luckily that was in my hippy days so carrying Tully around in a Hug a Bub was a kind of necessity for my cultural statement anyway.
Perhaps I need to reiterate here that Max truly is a gentle child. We have never been called upon to deal with a bullying incident with him and any other child but Tully. Well, he’s been bullied but has never been the bully. He is very sweet and sensitive.
But he did have this problem with Tully and sharing the family with him. This has played out in jealousy, anger, resentment, sadness and we have tried all sorts of things to deal with it. We tried kinesiology and flower essences; counselling and star charts. Nothing worked.
I know sibling rivalry is ‘normal behaviour’ and research has shown that it is beneficial for kids in later life because they learn negotiation skills. But as Max was getting older, the rivalry was coming out in a nasty, constant, undermining that may have been strengthening Tully’s resolve but can’t have been good for his self-esteem.
But now I think I have found a solution to our sibling rivalry issue.
Max was complaining that he was receiving no benefits for being older, he asked to watch movies that Tully isn’t allowed to watch and to go to bed later. Obvious perhaps that these things should come to him as he is almost three years older. But we treated them the same. According to this information, treating children equally is a good way to battle sibling rivalry but I think it’s wrong.
Each week now Max chooses a movie that is too scary for Tully, aged 8, and that he, aged 10, can handle. He also gets to read in bed for 20 minutes after Tully’s light is out.
And it seems that these simple steps have made a huge difference. They still fight but Max really doesn’t seem to hold nearly as much resentment towards Tully. It seems like more natural bickering.
Of course our emotions are complex and resentment can be triggered by all sorts of things but it’s amazing to just stumble across a simple solution like that. I call it happenstance parenting.