My two boys squabble all the time
I have two boys. One is 26 months old and the other was four last week, and they seem to be squabbling and fighting all the time. In particular, the older boy seems to resent the younger one and won’t share any of his toys with him.
They can’t seem to play together and any time I leave them alone they start to fight. The little one always abandons what he is doing and tries to play with the big one’s toys which ends badly, with the older guy hitting out and making him cry. While I appreciate this is normal to a degree, I sometimes get very frustrated and wonder will they ever get on.
Sibling disputes and rows between young children are very common in families, and are particularly acute at the ages of your two children. At 26 months, your younger boy is likely to try to play with the toys or games of his older brother, yet he may not know yet how to play the games properly or how to ask nicely or to share. As a result he might intrude upon his brother and grab his toys, leading to frustration. At four, your older boy is likely to be only just learning to share and might find his brother’s attention difficult to manage. He might also be resentful of his brother, who he could see as a competitor for his parents’ attention. Both children are likely to be sensitive to how you respond to their disputes and to be very upset should you take the side of their brother over them.
Try not to take a side in their fights
A common reaction when two children are in a fight is for the parent to become a referee to decide who is at fault, and then to punish that child. Most often parents take the side of the younger child and give out to the older one: “You should know better”; “Don’t shout at your brother”; “Give him that toy now”; and so on.
However, in that case the older child usually feels the parent is favouring the younger and this makes him resent him more and actually less likely to share in the future.
Where possible, the key to addressing these rows is to not take a side and instead to support the two of them sorting out the underlying dispute. For example, if you hear them fighting, you might calmly intervene and say, “Let’s calm down now, and sort this out.” Even if you think one child is in the wrong it is generally best to address them both for this behaviour: “In this house there is no hitting. We all have to be gentle”; or “In this family we ask nicely and don’t grab”, and so on.
When you do use consequences, rather than singling out a child try to have consequences that affect them both such as that the game stops until they play nicely, or that they have to separate for a few minutes until calm etc. Keeping your voice warm and soft, and not punitive and angry, is key to being successful.