Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to deal with Sibling Rivalry: Ask the Oracle

Last week I threw an idea out there called 'Ask the Oracle' whereby people send in their parenting problems and then I, along with other parent bloggers tried to answer them. The response was fantastic and I now have a bank of 'Oracle Experts' lined up to answer any question you may throw at us (well - maybe not any question - we're not going to be able to tell you where you left your keys or what the meaning of life is, but you get the idea).

This week we're tacking Potty Training with Lisa on and Night Terrors with Kylie on Not Even a Bag of Sugar as well as two issues related to sibling rivalry below.

First up is Rachel who says:

There is a 4 and a half year gap between my 2 eldest (aged 8 and 3) my 3 year old is hard work and likes her own way but my 8 year old has always been chilled . Recently however she has become completely intolerant of her younger sister, she says some hateful comments and bites at every comment. She uses this horrible shouty voice and strops if anyone stands up for her sister. Her younger sister on the other hand is desperate for attention from her sister and just wants to do what her big sister does. She hates being alone and always behaves best when she is given lots of attention. She has started saying that she wishes I only had one child, this is my worst day ever and I wish I wasn't here anymore. 
I know my 8 year old wants time to herself and I try to make this happen but at the moment she is struggling to be in the same room as her sister, it's like living in a war zone and it's driving me crazy.


Reading this brought back memories of me and my younger sister who was born ten years after me - robbing me of my beloved 'baby' place in the family. What a bitch. Anyway, as I remember it I wasn't put out in the least by her arrival - I adored having a little sister to dote on and even pushed her round the town in her pram hoping people would think I was her Mum. (Ten year old single mother - nice aspirations).

However....after a few years I tired of the arrangement and became an utter cow towards the poor girl. I would order her to get my book from my room and when she came back with the wrong one I would roll my eyes at her and hiss 'not THAT one for Gods sake' before making her run back up the stairs to find the right one. There was even one occasion when I poured boiling hot tea all over her bare legs. On purpose. I know.

Anyway, my point is, siblings will always have periods of getting on and not getting on so it's impossible to 'stamp it out' as it were.

What I would suggest in this case is allowing the 8 year old a certain flexibility in being the horrible big sister - but sit her down and explain what absolutely isn't tolerated and what she should try harder on. So for example shouting at her little sister just for being in the same room is totally not ok, but having a strop because someone is siding with the little one is something she could try harder on.

Then make a reward scheme so that every time she behaves in a good way in a difficult situation she gets a token, and after maybe five tokens she gets to have a treat - such as some time alone with her Mum or a friend round for a sleepover.

You could also try the guilt trip of how her little sister must be feeling etc. Anything goes if you're desperate..

The other sibling rivalry issue that came up is from Anne:

"The thing that's getting me down the most (this week) is trying to deal with the both of them talking at the same time and the rivalry that goes with it. They could argue about who was talking first for the next 30 minutes! Arrgghhh! (I've got a 7.5 girl and 5.5 boy (don't forget the half))."

Hmm. I'd go the simple route with this one I think. Have something like a 'coin of power' in your pocket at all times - give the coin to the one you think should be going first and let them speak. Then hand the 'coin of power' to the other one. No coin - no talky.

Now I realise this is just one mother's suggestion to another mother so I would love anyone with any other ideas or experience to wade in and give their tuppence worth too.

(Update - Kiddy Charts has just put up this very detailed and informative post. Be sure to take a look (it's much better than mine!) 

Don't forget that Ask the Oracle is also tackling (i) Problems with Potty Training over at and (ii) Dealing with Night Terrors at Not Even a Bag of Sugar so be sure to pop over there as well.

So now it's time to hand over to you guys - if you have any suggestions or answers please pop them in the comments or even write your own blog post and put a link in the comment section.

And if you have a parenting problem you'd like the Oracle experts to tackle then email me at or leave a comment below.

Until next week....

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