Dear Dr. Bill,
I have two wonderful boys, ages four and eight. The only problem is that there seems to be a constant battle between them. I don’t know what to do about this—my mother says I should stop the fighting and teach them to love each other. Others have told me that this behavior is common to boys and I shouldn’t worry about it. What can I do?
Sibling rivalry has been around since the beginning of time. Remember Cain and Abel? If you recall, that story had a very unhappy ending.
Here are a few suggestions. First, whenever your boys act aggressively toward one other, implement immediate consequences for both of them. The consequence needs to be unpleasant for each child, such as the loss of a privilege, the requirement to complete a yucky chore, or a time-out in a completely boring location. Of course, fighting kids always need to do their time-outs in SEPARATE locations.
If you are consistent and follow through with consequences at the first sign of aggressive behavior, you should notice that your boys will begin to fight less and less. And remember, when dealing with sibling rivalry never, NEVER ask the world’s dumbest question: “Who started it?”
You should also make sure that both of your boys receive positive one on one time with you every week. Sometimes sibling rivalry occurs when children feel like they need to fight to get a parent’s time and attention.
Both you and your husband should make an effort to schedule time alone with each boy every week. This could be a few minutes each evening or an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday.
Finally, teach your sons what God says about how we are to treat one another. Read the bible together regularly, and memorize scriptures about love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. A good place to start is I John 4:7-8 and Colossians 3:12-14.
Thanks for writing, Debbie. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.
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