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Stressed Daughter With Little Brother Bothering Her

Hello Annie,
I have a 7 year old daughter who is very sensitive, and a very energetic son who is 5.

Most of the time he is trying to bother her, hits her, yells at her.

I Never spank them, and try not to yell, my husband is the same. So, I don't know what is going wrong he is not learning this from us.

How could I stop this, I am worried because I don't want her to be stressed because of him. And I don't want him to convert into a bully.

He is also sometimes disrespectful with us, and wants to do everything his way. Most of the time we set the limits and wait patiently until he accepts, but when I am not in a good mood I just get upset with him.

I have read a lot about setting limits with a strong will child, and I think mostly these are not working for us.

Thank you.

Comments for Stressed Daughter With Little Brother Bothering Her

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Sibling Conflict - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Thanks for your question - siblings fighting is hard to put up with and difficult to handle, particularly when you see one child coming out worse on a regular basis.

The bottom line is he does need to respect his sister and learn to be kinder. But we have to ask why is he behaving like this? There are several factors - one he wants her attention, wants to play, wants lots of high energy interaction. Secondly he is probably getting a bit addicted to the power of being able to push her buttons.

What can you do? Your daughter needs her space and needs to be able to be in her room without him coming in unless invited. Your son needs lots of attention and lots of high energy interaction and if he doesn't get it in positive ways he will do everything he can to get it negatively which is not a good habit to get into.

Setting limits constantly with a strong willed child can get pretty exhausting. But you do what you can. He also needs to know you have bottom
lines and will eventually loose your temper. Some kids push and push until you do - mostly because they have got your energy.

You can find lots of other ideas for managing difficult behavior in our behavior section.

Be Proactive About Good Quality Attention

Since it is taking a lot of energy anyway, put more into giving him lots of attention before he starts acting up. If you need to cook dinner, then your husband has half an hour with him playing outside or doing physical boy stuff, and more than likely your son needs lots of rough housing. If you find that hard to do, try tickling chasing games.

Do lots of negotiating with him WHILE HE IS BEHAVING WELL!! Not when he is acting up. Set some arrangements with him; perhaps you or your husband will play games of his choice for 15 - 30 minutes and then he agrees to settle down to some quieter games on his own, or comes and helps you prepare dinner.

Do Deals
Aim For Win-Win

Your daughter can also be part of the negotiation. He wants her attention, he wants to play with her. She might be happy to agree to 30 minutes outside with him so long as he agrees to give her 30 minutes to herself in her room first.

Just a word of caution, kids should not have to earn attention or only get attention if they have behaved well. But he can earn extra things, like 15 minutes later staying up reading with you, or build up to a weekend reward.

His attention span might not last long, work out what he can manage to commit to, and then take it from there.

Part Two Follows . . .

Sibling Conflict - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

The use of a timer works well with negotiating too - if he can see/hear there is a time limit he might be more likely to comply. You can use it for you too - "Give me ten minutes to get dinner in the oven, then we'll go play ball." Then put the timer on for you!

Kids that act up usually need heaps more positive attention. And more often than not the family has got into the habit of constantly being on his back. If he is constantly seen as the naughty one, the disruptive child, the high maintenance child, you reinforce the issues.

So heading things off long before he starts acting up, coming up with plans, making deals and giving him good quality, high energy attention,
will go a long way to preventing his bad behavior.

Empower Your Daughter

Your daughter may be getting stuck in being a victim. She might be getting her attention by running crying to you and complaining about her brother.

She also needs positive attention, so she doesn't get a pay off for being the victim. Teaching her to stand up for herself, to negotiate with him and find win win deals will help her to shift away from being a victim to his high energy. She can get him to put the timer on for 15 minutes and then let her know when it it time to play together. If she starts to come up with solutions she is not dis-empowering herself by running to you to sort it out.

Sibling Conflict Is Not All Bad!

Kids learn so much from each other, it is an important time that helps them for life. A big disadvantage of only children, is they don't have the sibling fight to learn from! So even though it can be difficult at times, it is all good learning opportunities.

Focus on finding win/win solutions together, rather than Mom and Dad having to be the exhausted police trying to deal with the fall out. You might have to micro manage a bit in the beginning to get everyone working out what they need and negotiating for it, but in the long run it will pay off.

Part Three Follows . . .

Sibling Conflict - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

When things do start escalating - call a stop, blow a whistle, bang a drum or something and get each person to say what they need. Then get them to come up with some ideas of how each person can achieve that. Or they can pick another family member and come up with a solution for them.

Family Negotiating

For Example:
The first round everyone states their need:

  • Your Son wants someone to play high energy games with him

  • Your Daughter wants to read in her room by herself

  • Dad wants to read the paper

  • Mom wants to get dinner underway

Round Two everyone chooses someone else and finds a winning solution for them:

  • Your Son suggests Mom get some help with dinner

  • Your Daughter suggests Dad play with Your Son and read the paper after dinner

  • Dad suggests Your Daughter reads for 15 minutes then helps Mum in the kitchen

  • Mom suggests Your Son put the timer on and after 15 minutes she will come and play with him

You can do several rounds, then each person can pick the solution that seems to be workable.

I know this seems a little time consuming, but once it becomes family practice it can be done quite quickly. And think about how much energy, stress and disharmony it creates when everything erupts and you have to yell and try to sort things out.

Helping kids to solve problems and come up with solutions teaches them so much more than having to be the one that fixes everything.

Parenting is exhausting sometimes, specially when we have high energy kids. So helping them think about each other and coming up with win win solutions teaches them so much more for the future and takes the pressure off you having to sort everything out.

Hopefully this will give you a few ideas to help ease the household tension,

All the best,
Annie D :)

Thank You!!!
by: Anonymous

THANK YOU SO MUCH!! I think it is great the way you describe everything as if you knew our family, everything makes sense to me, and we are going to take all your advice.

Thanks for taking the time to answer everything do well,

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