Pinay Mom's Blogs
Motherhood between windmills and tulips

Handling sibling aggression in my preteens: when banter becomes bitter

We've all been there. The relentless bickering between siblings can sometimes seem like background noise in the family home. A tug-of-war over the TV remote, accusations of a 'borrowed' shirt, or a simple 'go away!' or in my kids’ case, “ga weg!“ Why can't they just remain sweet and nice to each other and do fun things together all the time? Makes me miss those days when they always agree on doing cute and cool things like this photo. Aren't they adorable? 

While such disputes can often be dismissed as typical sibling rivalry, how do we as parents discern between harmless teasing and harmful torment? I’ve read a few articles online and listened to a number of podcasts at home and here’s a small bunch of take-aways from what I’ve learned that I hope could also help interested moms out there find out the differences.

First and foremost, understanding the root cause of the aggression is key. Preteens are at a unique stage of life, teetering between childhood and adolescence. They're trying to have a good grasp of these array of emotions, social pressures, and bodily changes. Sometimes, the sibling becomes an easy outlet for these pent-up feelings. Right?

While occasional arguments are expected, I learned that there are telltale signs that the aggression is escalating:

1. If the confrontations are happening way too often than the peaceful moments.
2. If they start using hurtful words that even you get perked up to hear, or when these arguments escalate into physical hurting or fights?
3. If one sibling consistently dominates or bullies the other, and this one is a cause for concern and must be nipped in the butt!

How can we as the mommies handle this aggression?

As tempting as it might be to pick a side, we shouldn’t. I know I try my very best not to. I try to stay neutral and listen to what Jasper and Liam has to say before my husband and I make any judgments. And we also have established house rules to begin with. No hitting on the face or below the belt. No going after someone’s own things, and my favorite, no cursing. And when it gets really messy, I give them a brief time out from each other. Once they’ve calmed down, I grab that opportunity to encourage them to talk about what happened and discuss their feelings. And in between, I remind them that in the end, they should love and respect each other. A plus is to highlight and show them how happy or proud you are if they resolve their conflicts themselves. Positive reinforcement can go a long way.

When to Seek Outside Help

Thankfully, our family has not reached that point when the aggression calls for outside help. But if in case you or a household you know have tried multiple strategies and the aggression continues or escalates, it might be time to consider professional counseling. A therapist can provide strategies tailored to your family's dynamics and here in the Netherlands, you can contact your GP or the Municipal health service (GGD) and they’ll give you the proper referral to aid you with parenting and behavioral problems.
Sibling rivalry in preteens, while normal, can sometimes tip into concerning territory. But with understanding, patience, and the right strategies, we can help our children navigate these tumultuous waters. After all, the bond between siblings is special, and with guidance, it can emerge even stronger from these challenging years.
Remember mommies, while the road might be rocky now, with persistence, we will prevail and our kids will grow up to be the best of friends. Keep the faith and keep guiding with love!

Back to HOME