Is It Just Me?

Okay y’all…this is a shout out to any mamas out there who are older and wiser. My kids are 16, 14, 10 & 7 and they just can’t stand each other. I know “sibling rivalry” is supposed to be normal, blah, blah, blah. But this is ridiculous. Today, I’m at a loss. There are plenty of things that we have figured out and plenty of wins that we’ve had in our family. But right now, all the good is overshadowed in my mind by the way my kids treat each other. In the overall scheme of things, they are great kids. Especially one on one. But mix them all together and it’s not pretty. Rather, it feels like some failed toxic science experiment. Why?

First, they are hyper-offendable. (Is that even a word? or compound word? I don’t know.) But you’ve heard of giving someone the benefit of the doubt? Well, imagine the opposite…they always seem to be sure the other one “did it on purpose!” You know what I’m talking about…”He touched me, he pushed me, he took my seat!” Yada Yada.

Second, they know how to push each other’s buttons and they do it constantly. Have you seen the Shrek movie where the donkey is riding in the back of the carriage making a popping sound with his mouth? Shrek puts up with it for a while but then he loses his temper. My youngest, “Seven” will be singing at the top of his lungs (which offends “Ten”…see point number one) so “Ten” says, “Can you please stop?” Rather than stop, Seven just sings the same song in the same goofy tone but barely audible. Is he quieter? Yes. But he’s actually now doing it because he knows it bugs his brother. He’s not being cooperative…he’s instigating trouble. With a smile on his face. And Ten responds by losing it. Which leads me to the third bad habit…

They over-react. If a situation calls for a reaction measuring about a 3 on the response scale, they tend to land somewhere between 9 and 10. This just escalates the whole thing into a “knock-down drag-out” fight in a matter of seconds. You’ve heard of The Golden Rule? Treat others as you’d want to be treated. Yeah, well they seem to ascribe to its lesser known cousin, The Black and Blue Rule: Treat others as you’ve been treated. Um, sorry…not the same thing.

These scenarios happen daily. I feel quite vulnerable writing this because I don’t want to imply that my kids are bad kids or that things are always one big argument around here. But I’m being honest. The unkind, distrustful, paranoid behavior has me wanting to leave my house and not come back. (Well, I would come back between the hours of 8am – 2pm…it’s peaceful then.)

Here’s a few of the things I’ve tried:

  • I’ve taken away privileges for a time (mostly any and all electronic entertainment)
  • I’ve fined them a quarter for every mean thing they say to one another (the “perpetrator” has to pay the fine to the “victim”)
  • I have had family meetings where we talk about being more loving, giving the benefit of the doubt and choosing to overlook offenses.
  • I have removed all play date privileges before, explaining that if they can’t get along with each other, they will not be allowed to play with other kids until they learn to like each other.
  • And I have written up contracts for them, gone over the behavior that I expect and had them sign on the dotted line.
Some of these things have worked for a time but mostly everything ends up returning to normal (a.k.a. so disappointing and annoying that I feel like packing my bags and thumbing it to the bus station) (just kidding…of course! I wouldn’t travel by bus.)
Seriously though, while I would never actually leave, I get so heartbroken over how my kids treat each other that it can make me literally feel ill. I know some fighting and nastiness can be expected. I’ve heard the saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt” and I get that. But I feel like I should just wear black and white stripes and a whistle every day. However, I would much rather be a coach than a referee.
Now I could end this post with some sage advice on what I’ve learned and give you some suggestions about what you could try if you’ve had the same problems. But that wouldn’t be real. I honestly don’t know what to do at this point! Right now I’m thinking maybe I’ll just try all of the above methods at one time. I’ll let you know how it goes!
But I have some questions for you….if your kids are not yet grown, do you ever have similar struggles? Or am I just missing something? And if you have older teen or college aged kids, do you have any sage advice that I can try? What worked for you?
If you have feedback for me, please comment below or on Facebook. Thanks!


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  1. This is why i only had one child (Kidding!!!-would have had a houseful if i could have). I grew up in a house with 4 brothers and what you describe was our house totally. I am happy to report that what you are going through seems to be perfectly normal but none-the-less frustrating. While normal, i still think as parents you have to constantly try to rein-in the obnoxious behaviour or it does become a problem. As is the cases of others posting, and as was the case in my house, they will probably all grow to be bestest buds – but on occasion even then they will drive each others nuts. The good part is you will be able to send them home! If this makes sense – enjoy your stress and frustration now because all too soon its very quiet in the house. Hugs!

  2. Yes, yes, yes and yes! Rebekah, as you know, I have been a mom for just about 25 years and have been going through this since then. The older boys are great now and best buddies, but my teenage girls can be a nightmare. Friends one minute and mortal enemies the next. The only bit of advice I can possibly offer is

    1. Don’t get involved
    2. Don’t get involved
    3. Don’t get involved
    4. Breathe through your nose in calm even breaths and know this too shall pass


    • Michelle…thank you! Your comment is very encouraging…just the fact that your older ones are best buddies. I can’t fathom that happening with my kids but I’ve always hoped they might pull through as friends. Okay, so if I hear you correctly you’re saying “Don’t get involved?” LOL. I will try that. I may end up with a couple less kids that way though. Just sayin…

      • I really do think not getting involved in these battles helps. Doesn’t mean you’re checking out. Always stay present in the moment just don’t be involved. I found this out a little late in my child rearing days when I was observing a day of silence (on my part) and couldn’t voice anything during battles, and amazingly enough they were much more short lived when no one else was involved!

  3. It is NOT just you. I’ve been feeling the same way lately…just FED UP with how my boys treat each other. I did see a glimmer of light one evening when there was blood involved and my kind hearted one, who was responsible, gave himself a pretty severe consequence–missing his next baseball game. It made the bloody one cry over it and forgive him resolutely. He actually begged him not to give himself the consequence because he just couldn’t stand to have his brother miss a baseball game. It was like living in bizarro world–them giving themselves consequences and forgiving each other. It’s just so rare that I had no idea what was happening…and I really wasn’t involved other than being really, really mad that they were fighting in the first place. Anyway, it was a tiny peek into seeing them show love so I’m holding onto hope that summer won’t be complete torture. I did try a job jar where they have to pick a job if they are mean to each other, but they managed to turn it into a fight over who got the easier job. Sigh. Will it ever end?!?

    • Oh, I’m laughing now about the job jar. Yes! Even punishments turn into arguments around here. It’s insane! But alas…we are not alone, right? Sounds like you’re doing something right by the way they handled the “blood” situation. Hmm…maybe I should go to the costume store and buy some fake blood…

  4. Ok, that’s just creepy. It’s like you are in my house. I JUST had this conversation with D a couple of weeks back (blubbering uncontrolably). No solutions here yet, but I have a stinking suspicion that it has to do with high levels of testosterone. Progesterone injections? I’ll share if I find something that works longer than an hour….

    • Hmmm…well you know we are kind of twins at times. Read my friend Maureen’s comment on my fb page under the link for this post. She’s right and very encouraging. Thing is, we can try to direct their behaviors and coach them but we cannot be the Holy Spirit to them. He has to convict them of their poor choices just like he does with us. Another friend said “Do not get involved.” That feels a little freeing. I’m worried one of them might kill another…but…still, it’s worth a shot. LOL

      • True, true, true….I read Maureen’s comment….I LOVE it when you can hear wisdom speaking. So thankful none of us are alone on this journey! Love you sister friend!

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