Monday 14 October 2019

Dear David Coleman: 'We are worn out trying to keep harmony between our two boys'

"The older boy was sick, and instead of being nice, his little brother just called him names." Stock photo
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David Coleman

David Coleman

Q Some days, my two boys play great, but most of the time, the six-year-old is picking on the eight-year-old. We are worn out trying to keep harmony. For example, the older boy was sick, and instead of being nice, his little brother just called him names. We know he sees him as competition. How can we show them they are equal, we love them both, and that they don't need to compete?

David replies: Perhaps the place to start is with the fact that they are not equal. There is always a hierarchy in families.

Typically, the older child gets certain privileges that accord with their age and stage of development, which will always be ahead of their younger siblings. So, they'll be the first to go to big school, or get to stay up later and so on.

Even though we may try to present the family as a bastion of equality, most of us find certain aspects of our children endearing and other aspects annoying, leading us to respond to them differently (especially if one is more endearing than the other).

Even though you love them both, you also love different things about them both, and they will have a sense of that.

So, perhaps the best thing to do is to allow your younger boy to vent about the things that frustrate him about his brother.

As the authors of Siblings Without Rivalry (an excellent book for you to get) point out, "its not until the bad feelings get out that the good ones can get in".

Maybe if you understand his frustrations better, you can help him work them out without taking them out on his brother.

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