Sunday, 22 April 2012

How to deal with sibling rivalry

If you have more than one child, get your head round the fact now that they will demonstrate an unhealthy amount of sibling rivalry. As your small fry have a full blown fight in public, displaying aggression which would make a seasoned cage fighter glow with pride, you may find people giving you that sympathetic half smile (which really means 'I'm so glad they're not mine') and saying, "They'll be the best of friends when they're older..."

This statement is not true. IF they survive to adulthood without killing each other, and believe me the odds are not good, the best you can hope for is that they live far enough away from each other that they will occasionally don rose-tinted spectacles and remember their childhood semi fondly. Perhaps at Christmas. Or when someone dies. The glasses will be whisked off and jumped on, however, the moment they meet again.

Don't get me wrong, I know some siblings who are incredibly close, but for my brother and I that is a dream which will always be a piped one.

By the time my brother was born, I had been an only child for almost four years, and quite liked it really. The arrival of a screaming bundle of attention-stealing joy was not something I was totally on board with... My inner diva came roaring to the surface as I tried valiantly to manoeuver the spotlight firmly back on the star of the show. Me. Babies are cute if you are a grown up. To a four year old, a baby is just a slightly smaller and less perfect version of themselves, and why would you want one of those when you already have perfection?

A friend of mine was nanny to twins, who also had a six year old sibling. Four years as an only child is one thing, but to have six years to yourself and then be presented with two babies is too much. My friend went to use the bathroom when the twins were about five months old. When she came back the babies were poking out from behind the sofa. Their brother had tipped all his toys down the back of the sofa and was in the process of balancing his bike on the top. Luckily, six year olds don't have the best spacial awareness and babies are short, so no harm done.

I have drummed into my kids how lucky they are to have a brother/sister, but I'm not convinced they believe me. My dad's solution is this:
If you want to have siblings who are close, you have to play the odds. If you have two children, chances are they won't get along as there as no variation in sparring partners. Have six or seven and the odds are good that at least two of them will like each other, given the number of combinations available. It's simple maths really.

So, to summarise, if you want to produce a pair of siblings who get on, breed lots.
"Breed like the wind, Bullseye!" (Toy Story)
"I breed therefore I am." (Descartes)
"Baby we were born to breed!" (Springsteen)
I rest my case.

Today: Bobby plays to her strength
Bobby and Phyllis, fighting over the last remaining seat.
Phyllis (snaking behind Bobby and getting in first): "You snooze, you lose!"
Bobby (nonchalantly tipping her off said chair): "You're small, you fall."

Mama Jax


  1. I can totally relate to this! I have two children and my eldest has become a right little diva at times to get the attention back on herself (she's three). I hope they grow closer as they get older as there isn't a huge age gap but, you never know. Great post x

  2. My husband often says that him and 2 brothers must have an unsaid agreement to live in different cities and thats how they manage to not kill each other (they are 40, 38 and 36 lol)

  3. Thanks for the blog-read. I appreciated this so much. And it made me remember...

    Said my then 3yr old daughter of her new baby brother: Mummy, just leave Louis there... It's ok. Just leave him there. We don't need to take him too...

    At 16 yrs she had christened him 'the golden child' - and really did resent his midas love-me-touch with people.

    She's 22 now - and he and she go drinking; share secrets; have a laugh - and still fight.

    I've got 5 - and they can fight fierce enough to put a squaddie to shame - but will equally fiercely protect one another. Especially against their poor defenceless parents!

    My own mother preached a mantra of: 'you only have one Derek' (you can replace Derek with your own relevant sibling name). And she was right. He was too precious for me to lose - even if he can be a perfect eejit on occasion...(feeling's mutual says he!).

    Don't ya just love families!