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Sibling Rivalry - is this normal?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

I'm not sure where to put this, so I hope this is okay. We're a blended family, but this is more about the two kids that are related and grew up together from birth, and no so much about the "blending" part. Just a little background...I am an only child and my daughter was as well for the first 3 years of her life. We now live with my SO and my DSD and DSS live with us 50% of the time. DSD is 9, DSS is 7 and my DS is now 4. We've been together a year and generally they get along...actually better than we originally thought they would. However, I have NO experience with siblings having had none (my mom was an only as well) and my daughter is the only child I really have any experience with.


So I just want to know if this is normal or what the heck is going on. I've become very depressed lately watching my SOs kids and how they act, their attitudes, etc... I feel like if this is normal, no wonder society is run by greedy, mean people who only watch out for themselves. I know this sounds harsh, but I don't understand how little kids get this way. My daughter is not that way, but now I say YET because I wonder if it's just because she is younger and/or hasn't gone to school.


What I mean by this is it seems 90% of my SOs kids motivation is to either do whatever they can get away with (or even not get away with) to hurt the other kids physically or make them cry or to just do as little as possible while still getting the most out of a situation. They will do whatever they can to get everyone else to do things for them. They pretend they don't understand simple instructions (such as saying, "Please get your own water. We just sat down to eat, but you are capable of going to the sink and getting water yourself" to them and their response is, "I don't know what you mean. How can I get my own water?") and will scream and whine until someone just does it for them or sends them to their room, completely ruining an otherwise normal or happy situation even though I have SEEN them get water for themselves before. The water is just one of MANY examples. "Your shoes are upstairs, go get them and put them on please," is met with something like, "I don't know what you mean by upstairs. Where upstairs? You go get them," without them even going to look where shoes always are! Today, from the moment they got in the car from school they are poking and pushing each other, snatching things from each other (like hats off the other's head, toys, etc...). DSD will purposely tell us things she knows her brother wants to tell us (but he stutters so can't get it out fast enough) and she knows it will make him cry, so why do it CONSTANTLY? They refuse to pick up their toys, clothing, dishes, etc...unless there is something in it for them. We don't give them allowance and we do have a very loose reward system which is basically if they don't drive us nuts for a few hours in a row, we'll take them somewhere special. Granted, I have no idea how things are run at their mom's house, but we know mom is strict and would not allow any of this. Dad is more of a "softie" but he hates all this fighting too and will eventually blow up at them. I've tried talking to him about a more structured environment, but he's not really interested in that at this time because he wants dad's house to be the "fun" house, so he just let's them do whatever until he gets to the point of blowing up and screaming. Every day one of them does something just plain evil...by that I mean something to purposely hurt one of the other kids. DSS new thing is to do something and then while we're talking to him about it or reprimanding him, he is laughing at us and the situation and thinks the whole thing is funny.


Is this normal? Is this how siblings are all the time? I feel like they behave as if they have no empathy, sympathy or care in the world for anyone but themselves about 90% of the time. My 4 year old is NOT like that, but I see her starting to pick it up more and more as time goes on and it scares me. She is a very caring and loving child and does not like to hurt others on purpose or steal things. She's always been that little baby/toddler/kid that let someone snatch a toy out of her hand without making a fuss...she'd just go get another one. She's more possessive now of course, but I still don't see her saying or doing hurtful things and I don't want her to turn into that.


Am I over reacting? I know it's possible I just don't understand sibling rivalry stuff, but how do get some peace in my house at least some of the time? I love his kids and they are loving towards us, but it's gotten to the point where I am glad when they are going to mom's sometimes.

post #2 of 10

Yikes.  I have 3 kids-- 10, 10 & 6 and I would say that is NOT normal, at least in our house.  The boys (twins) rarely fight or bicker, but they do tease each other sometimes.  From the time they were babies, we always talked to them about sharing and "kind touches" and taking turns, and we complimented them when they were kind to each other.  So they've pretty much always been good about it.   And my dd's a sweetheart and would never purposely hurt anyone.  


I've seen kids like you describe and honestly, I don't know how they become that way.  I have a friend who is loving and generous and her kids are really mean and rude, and they fight with each other constantly.   I won't let my kids be around her kids because it's so disturbing. 


So-- what to do?  First, I think you need a heart-to-heart with your dh to discuss the kind of family and household you want.  Does he think things are fine right now?  Probably not, so you two need a plan to achieve harmony in your house. That doesn't preclude fun, but it would definitely prohibit mean behavior.  I would bring the kids in on the discussion and make a set of house rules.


Several years ago when my boys weren't being nice to each other for a stretch, we had a family discussion to talk about what kind of family everyone wanted to be part of-- and what that meant in terms of their behavior and interactions with each other.  I think my boys were around 7 at the time and it really made a difference.  We were able to reference our family values when things started to get out of hand-- and I think the boys have internalized it now. They're not perfect, but they're pretty nice and thoughtful towards each other. 


As for the individual behaviors-- I think I would make that part of the discussion. If the behaviors continued, I wouldn't give any warnings, I would just step in and say "that's not how we act in this family," and separate the kids or deny a privilege or some other logical consequence.  

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

I definitely agree with the part where we stop giving warnings. I don't like them, but my SO does for some reason, but all that happens is he gives 10 warnings and no follow through or he counts to three but the closer to three he gets the slower he goes and the kids know this! Three or four more incidents happened since my post yesterday (spitting on each other, one ruining part of the others dinner, writing "Ally [me] is mean" on our whiteboard, hiding the tube of toothpaste before school so no one could brush their teeth, etc...).


I talked a little tonight with my SO about no more warnings, following through, talking about how certain behaviors are just no longer acceptable in our family, etc. and we got to test it out pretty much write away. Our oldest seems to think it's okay to just touch people and things whenever and however she wants. She will shove her hand in her brother's fries and take some without asking, stick her finger in our drinks to taste them, etc...Tonight my DD was wearing my DSD's necklace. I told her she could because DSD left it in the middle of the dining room floor like a piece of trash all day, so I assumed she didn't care about it anymore. DSD sees it finally, walks over, rips DD's hat off, and proceeds to just take the necklace off without saying a word. Not even, "Hey, that's mine, I'm taking it back!" She just goes over and, in my opinion, violates my DD and her space but putting her hands all over her and the things she's wearing. So I told her she could not have a root beer float (we were all going to A&W and that's the part the kids look forward to most, of course) and if she continued to disrespect people that way, she would not be eating anything at all until we returned home. I then explained that all she had to do was ask my DD for the necklace. She did finally and (thankfully) my DD say yes, of course you can have the necklace. My DSD proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes begging dad for a way to earn back her root beer float. Thankfully he did not back down. She was sulking most of the time, but she eventually perked up and the dinner went well...until we got home and I had to take all her Barbie dolls away. I think I did the right thing with the dolls but my SO told me later that he would have given her a warning first. I wanted to slap him LOL I don't know if he'll ever realize how his warnings are useless in situations where the kids already know they are doing something wrong. What's the point of the warning at that point?? duh.gif

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

I should say I took the Barbies away for a separate reason not related to the necklace or root beer.

post #5 of 10

I have 3 boys-they are constantly messing with each other, most times everyone is having fun, but they can certainly be mean to each other.  I think what you need to do is discuss with your SO and even the kids about appropriate behavior and what consequences should be for certain behaviors/actions.  Everyone needs to be on the same page, have clearly defined rules(no more fun house!), clear expectations as well as clearly defined consequences.  And then just follow through every single time.  If they aren't doing this at their mother's house, why not talk with her and find out what she's doing.  What her rules are and consequeces so maybe it can all be the same between both homes?

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

Last time we tried to talk to mom we were told she has no problems, the kids never fight and it's none of our  business what her rules and consequences are....shake.gif

post #7 of 10
No I don't think that is typical at all. I'd be asking myself why I thought they were doing this. Is it for attention? Are they still thrown off by the family changes? Other areas of stress or tension affecting them? Something stressful happening at school? Figuring out the root cause will help you decide how to best handle it. It sounds to me like it may be a symptom of something bigger happening in their lives.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Yeah, there is a lot going on and has been for the last couple years :( Mom is moving 5 hours away now, so there has been a lot of stress with that, especially since she insists on telling them everything (before anything is agreed on, like telling them they will live with her during the school year and now they are going to be living with us, etc...), putting them in the middle, etc...DSD wants to stay with us and DSS wants to go with mom. Talk of splitting them up occurred for a little while (we didn't tell the kids, but she did so we were forced to talk to them about it. SO told them it was a decision he and mom would make and they do not have to choose who to live with. The ex blew up and said he had no right to say that and basically he is a terrible father for not taking their wants into consideration...these kids are 9 and 7 years old...). Right now it seems like everything is agreed on, but the move hasn't occurred yet and I am sure the kids are anxious about it. The more I think about it, the more I can see why DSS has been acting up so much more lately, the closer the move date gets here and who knows what the hell mom is telling him. She keeps telling my SO that he has to review the agreement in 6 months and if the kids are unhappy, changes have to be made.I think she is telling the kids that if they are no happy where they are in 6 months, they can go back to whichever parent they want.


However, DSD has always been the type of kid that just does whatever she wants without any consideration of the other person's feelings, person space, etc... and I believe this is because my SO lets the kids get away with things because he is so fearful they will decide they don't want to live with/see dad anymore and some court somewhere will say, okay, you don't have to see your dad anymore. I know this is ridiculous, but he cannot see that, especially after the hose-job he got in court during the divorce in regards to custody. So there are very little consequences to her actions. I am more strict and she knows it and listens to me more, but at the same time I am sick of always being the bad guy. I do not like seeing "Ally is mean" written on our whiteboard even though I know it was out of line for DSS to write that. Obviously he was feeling that about me at the time. SO gives the kids so many warnings and countdowns it's mostly a joke now :/ He did better last time we were all together, but he feels so guilty and then I think he gets mad at me for "making" him discipline the kids even though he too expresses how much he hates how they act sometimes. I feel like it's a no-win situation in a lot of ways *sigh*

post #9 of 10
They have been taught these behaviors by others. Think of a little kid who tests you for appropriate behavior well the tested and didn't learn correctly. Sadly you are in a rough spot because they arenot with you all of the time. Are they just as difficult for their dad ?

You cant give into the whining. They vwill just have to learn. Or counselling. Their friends as they get older will find this behavior weird and willhelp them out of it too.

But what really worked for my brothers was one on one time. Sometimes a kid just needs attention. Unshared uniteripted one on one time. Good luck mama!
post #10 of 10

I'd say completely normal.  But that doesn't mean that there shouldn't be consequences, rules, etc.  Parenting is HARD!

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