Is early sibling aggression/rivalry predictive of their future relationship? (and some help needed...) - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 8 Old 10-05-2011, 04:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi everyone,

I have 2 DD's, 3.5 and 16 mo.  and lately we're having so many issues that I'm worried that they don't/won't like each other.  DD1 does the usual big sister stuff, like the occational push, hit, etc.  It's dealt with by removing her from the situation and reinforcing that "we treat each other with love and kindness."  She's really not too bad and is mostly doting all over her and cheering her on for taking steps, talking, etc. 


However, it's DD2 that worries me-she shrieks whenever DD1 comes near her.  I guess she's scared by some of her previous hits/pushes (none of which have ever been bad), but it's awful.  Yesterday we were in the grocery store and DD2 was in the cart and DD1 was helping me push the cart and DD2 screamed at the top of her lungs the whole time because DD1's hands were touching the bar of the cart.  The whole time DD1 is saying "It's OK Claire, I'm just helping push the cart" and she's so sweet to her.


I'm an only child and always wished for a sister and I just want them to like each other, and I'm afraid that DD2 hates DD1.  I guess I'm wondering what is a normal level of sibling rivalry (if that's what this is) and if it means anything about their future relationship.


Any suggestions on how to handle DD2 when she constantly pulls hair, pushes, and shreiks would be greatly appreciated.  I can't even read a book to both of them or do any activities where they're both close each other because DD2 freaks out.  Please help!!  Thanks so much!

Mom to 2 amazing girlies, Feb. '08 and May '
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#2 of 8 Old 10-05-2011, 06:01 PM
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My brother and I used to beat up on each other all the time and we are very close now so I don't think it is a good predictor of their future relationship.  I was definitely the one who was usually in control and the worst because I was a little older and bigger, but my brother held his own as he got bigger.  I think part of what helped was that my mother never took sides or hold it against either one of us when we hurt each other.  I think knowing that we were unconditionally loved and that the love had nothing to do with our sibling really helped us to experience our fights as the normal fights between children rather than as fights between adversaries fighting for love or at least recognition.


My dd is an only child, but I want to suggest that you try to step back and look at why your youngest is screaming.  Sometimes younger siblings learn very early on that screaming gets them a lot of cuddle time while their sibling spends alone time.  There was a mom at my last job who was very worried about how violent her older dd was until she started watching her children more closely when they didn't think they were being watched and realized that there was very little violence but a lot of random screaming.

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#3 of 8 Old 10-06-2011, 07:50 AM
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My 2 yo is like that sometimes with my 4 yo.  But, I've found it's more about me than the 4 year old.  For instance, it wouldn't matter who else was touching the cart, she only wants me to touch the cart.  (I can feel for you because this is an actual experience I have had.)  So, it really isn't a dislike for the 4 year old, it's an expression for wanting only mommy.  She'll even do the, "NO, MY mommy" when DS calls me mommy.  Sometimes it helps if DS "pulls" the cart while mommy pushes or the other way around. 


But, I DO try to respect the overarching need for mommy which I feel is what she is really expressing. 

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#4 of 8 Old 10-06-2011, 08:35 AM
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I don't think it's  a window into the future.  It seems to me to be a developmentally appropriate stage they go through.  I didn't run into it with my first and second because the age gap is MUCH bigger.  However my boys (now ages two and three) seem to be intent on battling each other as though they are channeling gladiators from the past. 


I intervene when I have to, but for the most part, I try to let them sort things out themselves.  I happen to have two pushy guys who both think THEY are in charge. 


Constant refrains around here:


"If you can't be civil, you'll have to play in different spaces." 

"If you can't share the toy, I will have to put it up for now."


And so on. 

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#5 of 8 Old 10-06-2011, 11:15 AM
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Oh, lord, I hope it's not predictive.  Or else my kids are in trouble!


Seriously, though, this is true for me too:

Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post

My brother and I used to beat up on each other all the time and we are very close now so I don't think it is a good predictor of their future relationship.


I see this rivalry now with my two, DS who is 7 and DD who is 4.  Sometimes they're best of friends and laugh and play together so well it makes me tear up.  Other times, they act like they hate each other (which also makes me tear up, but for different reasons obviously).  I do think it's a phase that many siblings go through, and what seems to help my two is to encourage them to sort it out civilly between themselves and tell them that if they can't, I'll have to intervene.  They don't usually like that because I'll often remove the source of the problem (i.e., "This toy seems to be making the two of you fight; I think we'll have to put it away if you can't play nicely with it.")


Your two are much younger, though, so I think they're fighting for different reasons.  Could DD2 be jealous of the attention DD1 is getting?  Does she have a hard time "sharing" you?"  I know my DD did at that age.  She would get very upset when DS wanted my attention.

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#6 of 8 Old 10-06-2011, 11:53 AM
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Better than apathy towards siblings but there is some very interesting research out there.


talks about encouraging healthy play interactions between children instead of focusing on breaking up conflicts.

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#7 of 8 Old 10-06-2011, 12:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for all the replies so far, it's very helpful (and reassuring)!  I love that article, thanks for posting it Dandelion-really makes me reevaluate how I look at them together.  I'd just rather keep separate as much as possible so they don't get mad at each other, but I'm going to start focusing on helping them play together.  I also think this will be much easier as the litle gets bigger and can interact a bit more.


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#8 of 8 Old 10-08-2011, 12:34 PM
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