QUESTION: I have two boys aged three and five. They have never got on with each other and fight constantly. The eldest is a “textbook” child. He is calm, good-natured and predictable. The three-year-old is a “whirlwind”. He’s full of fun and devilment. He gets all the attention because you can’t take your eye off him. He also gets away with murder because he’s funny.
His aim in life is to annoy his brother until he gets a reaction. Then the eldest hits him. The eldest sees him as a pest and would love to get rid of him. I gel more with the youngest than I do with the eldest. I can see the older child is jealous, which is part of the problem. On the days I don’t work and I am at home with them, they usually play – sometimes they actually play together – until about 9.30am, then the fighting starts. I have to put them in the car and go to a playground or wherever.
They even fight in the playground over who gets on to a certain swing or slide.
My husband is a great advocate of time-out and 1-2-3 Magic Parenting, and maintains it works when he’s minding them, but I find this worsens the stress.
When I try to put them into time-out, the five-year-old, particularly, screeches his head off, cries his eyes out and kicks the door to get back in. I know you are not an advocate of time-out, and I would be very grateful if you would advise me on the best way to remedy our situation.
ANSWER: I am going to imagine I am your five-year-old son – with the benefit of adult eyes and reasoning. This is how I might view the world: I like things that are somewhat ordered and predictable. I have a little brother who is like a “whirlwind” in the house and disrupts everything.
He never leaves me alone to play quietly, without wanting to get involved and mess things up. I feel really mad when he does that, and I hit him or push him away to give him the message I don’t want him to bother me.
Unfortunately, that always gets me into trouble with my parents. But it’s my brother’s fault – he is always at me first. I hate the way my little brother gets me into trouble.
I also hate the way my parents don’t seem to punish him as much, even though he’s always messing and causing trouble.
In fact, not only does he not get into trouble, but they actually seem to find it funny. And he gets away with no consequences for his actions.
I always have to suffer the consequences, but he doesn’t. That seems so unfair to me. I am certainly not going to let him get away with things, even if my parents do. I want to balance the scales a bit more. If they won’t punish him, then I will.
I also hate him because my mom seems to like him more. You can tell by the way she smiles or laughs at him. It is like they just get on better. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that proves she loves him more, but I feel it. It is like they just gel. I hate him for that.
He takes all of the attention off me. I so badly want her to love me like she loves him.
Here’s what I’d like to happen in my family to make things better. I want my mom and dad to intervene sooner when my brother comes and tries to play with me.
He needs to learn to share and take turns, and to play the games according to the rules. I wouldn’t hit him if he played properly.
I want my parents to teach him to play properly and to be around more to keep helping him.
I want my mom and dad to stop punishing us with the stupid naughty-step thing.
They never notice me when I’m being good. It’s like they are just waiting to catch me out when something bad happens. Mind you, at least when I am screaming and fighting with my mom she has to notice me more than she notices my little brother. It isn’t very pleasant, but at least she is focused on just me.
I also want my mom and dad to be fairer. I want justice. If they are going to use punishments then it has to be fair. My little brother does loads more bad stuff than I do. And so, according to their rules, he should be punished more, but he isn’t. If they were fairer, then I’d be less cross and I would spend less time trying to get my own back on my little brother.
I’d love my mom to notice me more for all the good things I do. I’d love a bit of special time with just her and me. Maybe she could send my brother to bed a bit earlier than me, and then I could have her all to myself for a little while. I want to know she loves me, and wants to spend time with me and do things with me.
I don’t even want her to love him less. I just want to know she loves me, too.
It’d be a lot more fun if we could be rewarded for all the good stuff. If I thought that I’d get some one-to-one story time or a special snuggle with my mom or dad, then I’d probably work harder to be good and not hit my brother.
In fact, if things were fairer, and they intervened more to keep him occupied and less disruptive, I’d like him a lot more… I mean, he is kind of fun to have around sometimes. – Irish Independent