Quelling Sibling QuibblingDR. RAY GUARENDI
Dear Dr. Ray, My twin sons are age ten. They bicker and battle about one third of the time they're together. Is this normal, and what can I do about it? - The Referee
To answer your first question — Is it normal for siblings to bicker about one third of their time together? No, it is not. One third sounds a little low. My guess is that typical brothers and sisters wrangle about half the time they're in proximity.
Your sons don't seem to bring out the absolute worst in each other. Keep in mind, they don't bicker about two thirds of the time. Of course, I'm assuming that this is conscious time. They probably seldom bother each other when they're asleep — both asleep, that is.
At times, the baiting, teasing, arguing and free-for-alling that erupts when sibs get too close to each other ("too close" is defined as "on the same continent") can get so nasty you wonder if either feels an ounce of affection for the other. In fact, brothers and sisters can battle heavy and long and still be normal. They may sound scary, but the sibling bond can bend nearly in half before it breaks. If the saying is true that "You only hurt the ones you love," then the mutual love of some siblings knows no bounds.
What breeds all this friction? The reasons are almost as many as kids themselves: merely spending time together, sharing rooms or possessions, competing for your attention, searching for tattle worthy crimes — serious things like talk-burping, looking at each other, or squirting water through your teeth. Perhaps most simply, some kids just consider their brother or sister a tag-along, pain in their anatomy, who can't wait to run to mom and "tell so he can get Brownie points."
If you wonder how much bickering is too much, ask yourself these questions: How often do the kids really fight? Are their quiet times together slipping by you unnoticed? It's easy to hear only the noise and not the silence. Are they playing even as they fight? In other words, they can't live with each other but they can't live without each other. How long has the squabbling been their style? It's not unusual for siblings who were former friends to pass through stretches of weeks, months, or even a few years when they don't seem to have much in common. In good families, maturity works magic. Most kids eventually realize that brother Benedict isn't a total turncoat, bad-guy after, all.
There's a bright side to chronic sibling quibbling. As long as Rocky and Bruno are spending so much energy trying to out think each other, they're less able to plan how to get around you. If you have trouble staying a step ahead of one kid, imagine how tough it would be if they always cooperated in their mischief.
Sibling quibbling is pretty normal. That doesn't mean you can't take steps to quiet the tumult a bit.
So the answer is no, it is not normal for siblings to battle about one third of
their time together. In fact, one third sounds a little low. Many brothers and
sisters hover around the fifty percent mark and above.
And the dance goes on. You'd have a better chance at working off the national
debt than digging to the bottom of one of these interchanges. Instead of trying
to ascertain who did what to whom when and with what, establish a few house rules
for a fair fight. Since your sons are similar in size and age, try these.
success of any approach lies in trying to stay out of the minor scrapes as much
as possible and in using the same clear-cut consequences for both boys when you
Ray Guarendi "Quelling Sibling Quibbling." kidbrat.com.
Reprinted with permission of Ray Guarendi.
Raymond N. Guarendi, aka Dr. Ray, is a practicing clinical psychologist and authority on parenting and behavioral issues active in the Catholic niche media. Guarendi is an advocate of common sense approaches to child rearing and discipline issues. Guarendi received his B.A. and M.A. at Case Western Reserve University in 1974, and his Ph.D. at Kent State University in 1978. He is the author of You're a better parent than you think!: a guide to common-sense parenting, Good Discipline, Great Teens, Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It; Straight Answers to Hearfelt Questions, Discipline that lasts a lifetime: the best gift you can give your kids, and Back to the Family.
Copyright © 2001 Ray Guarendi
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