30 answers

Kids Won't Stop "Picking" at Each Other

I know this is a "normal" sibling issue, but these kids are driving me crazy! My 3yr son and almost 7yr daughter are constantly "picking" at each other. Hair pulling,walking by and pushing,etc. I have tried to send them to separate chairs, time outs,etc but they still keep on. The only way to get them to stop is to stay in the same room and referee.Any ideas or anyone read any good books on siblings? Thanks in advance!

20 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you moms for the great advice! I am going to pick up the Siblings w/o Rivalry book. Also, ya'll have given me some really great ideas to work with and if it takes me trying them all, well so be it! Like so many of you mentioned, I try to remind myself this is pretty common among siblings and more times than not it will work out and they will be close eventually. Thank you again!!!!

Featured Answers

The best advice I have ever received was:
1) If you need to correct a child do it away from their brother or sister or friend. You will then have all their attention.
2) Use the "I" message not the "You" message. They will listen then. (Let them know how you feel about their actions)
As a Granny of 7 and mother of 2 you will get thru this and have many wonderful times.
Bonnie B

5 moms found this helpful

My children are 20 months apart and are now 11 and 12. When they were younger and would constantly pick at each other, I would have them each apologize to the other (after explaining what went wrong that caused the argument) by saying "I'm sorry, can you forgive me?" and the other child responding with "Yes, I forgive you", then have them give each other a hug. The hardest thing for kids to do is apologize, easier to do if taught when they are young. If this concept is not grasped by the child at a young age, it may never be learned. My kids are very kind, caring and loving of each other now and have been for years. I receive compliments all the time on how well behaved my children are. People ask all the time if they ever fight because they appear to get along so well, and in reality they do. They've learned to respect and love each other. Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful

I'm in the same boat! I hate it. They know I hate it and try harder when I'm around. But, as soon as I'm not, they're at it again. I've asked countless moms who I respect about this. They said you have to stop being referree and just separate them for the peace of the family or let them work it out. It's very difficult. We've started not letting them play together unless they commit to "making someone else happy" while they play. As soon as I hear whining, arguing, or fighting I remind them to make someone else happy or the playing will stop. If I have to stop the playing, then I separate them and take those specific toys away as I don't know who started it and don't care. They have to find something else to play with and alone. If that doesn't work - then I put them to work. They have to sweep and mop. Clean their room. Vacuum. Pick up the yard. Clean out the car.
Anything they can do - I don't care about it being done "well" and keeps them busy. Most of the time, I separate them for the chores - but they end up asking to work together and I remind them they have to make someone else happy. They agree and end up working well together. It's quite funny. We've only started this this summer, so we'll see if it is a long term fix. It is helping (not fixing) so far.

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers

Hi J.,

Check out S.T.E.P. (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) program, and there are parenting classes in this:

http://www.ciccparenting.org/StepPrograms.aspx
http://www.parenting-resources.com/systematic-training-ef...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systematic_Training_for_Effe...
http://www.lifematters.com/step.asp

Check out this psychologist & his books:

http://www.carlpickhardt.com/; http://us.macmillan.com/author/carlepickhardt

Carl Pickhardt says, "not getting along" is how siblings "get along."

Perhaps you need to ignore the picking... sounds like they are doing it for your benefit. They may also feel that the baby gets more attention. Negative attention is better than none at all, and they've figured out how to involve you in their squabbles.

Maybe your older child could go to a camp, spend time with a relative, etc. A little separation of the two siblings might help. And, if there’s any way for you to spend some “special”, alone time with each of them, that could help.

A little separation of the two siblings might help. Maybe your older child could go to a camp, spend time with a relative, etc. And, if there’s any way for you to spend some “special”, alone time with each of them, that could help.

I couldn't do it... I tip my hat to you. Good luck! J.

7 moms found this helpful

Hi J.-

My 4 year old daughter and 6 year old son are the same way!! They can be playing together just fine one minute and then they are fighting the next. My son can be reading a book and my daughter will just come by and hit him in the head. It drives me nuts!!

Here's what we have done for the past month or so and it seems to help a little. My husband and I have to keep in mind that some sibling fighting is normal and we don't expect them to be perfect little angels with each other all of the time. Because in our case it seemed to be pretty equal as far as who was the instigator and who was the victim, we established a consequence that applied to both of them regardless of who did what. For example, if my husband or I witness any physical altercations or if one of them comes to us to tattle on the other one for pushing/hitting/touching etc. they both receive the consequence. It's usually no dessert that night and to bed 30 minutes early. When they are out of our sight we hear some fighting going on and I'm sure they have not completely stopped hitting or pushing each other, but they are handling it on their own without coming to us and it definitely is not happening as much as it used to.

Now obviously, if you have one child who is usually picking the fights and the other one is innocent this will not work.

Good Luck,
K.

6 moms found this helpful

J. - Have you tried the advice on this page?
http://www.gomommygo.com/consequenses.html#chair
It worked for my 7 kids!
Best to you and your family!
R.

6 moms found this helpful

I have similar problems and use this method that someone gave me. When a child is mean to a sibling I have the one being mean do an act of service for the other child. ie. make their bed for them, clear their spot at table, do another chore of the other persons. It seems to work really well. The first few times they groan but then they realize that they need to be nicer. Good luck! Pray about what you should do, the Lord will help you guide your little ones.

6 moms found this helpful

This is hilarious, but it works! Have them sit down on the floor (criss-cross with hands on their own knees.)Then, have them scoot in close enough to sit where their noses and foreheads are touching each other. They have to gently sit there (no pushing against each other, etc.)

From here, there are options...
No talking at all
Take turns telling each other something they like about the other (OR my personal favorite!)
Have them repeat, "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you!!!!!....

This usually makes them start laughing and defuses the situation. My kids were picking at each other and I would tell them, "Alright... nose to nose!" They knew what it meant and would either stop immediately or just start doing it and laughing.

Try it... it works!
Blessings,
M.

5 moms found this helpful

first you need some basic rules:
the simpler the better. mine are:

we do not hurt other people bodies
we do not break things
we do not disrespect the parents

if one rule is broken you state the crime (we do not hurt each others bodies - hitting is NOT nice) then that child sits in time out.

at my house it is an empty corner next to the front door. it is far enough away from the action but still in my sight. the child sits for as many minutes as it is old. (your 3 year old sits 3 minutes ) i have a timer.

when it beebs you go and calmly state the sentence again. then you make the child apologize to the other one or fix the thing that was broken.

and go about your day. never mention it again.

stay calm & be consistent, even if you have guests, or are on the phone or in a restaurant or in the mall.

they need to know that these rules are never to be broken.

I have 4 and it totally works! it is my little secret!
I would go crazy if I did not have this in place!!
(lol)
email me if you need more help! :)
____@____.com

-C.

5 moms found this helpful

The best advice I have ever received was:
1) If you need to correct a child do it away from their brother or sister or friend. You will then have all their attention.
2) Use the "I" message not the "You" message. They will listen then. (Let them know how you feel about their actions)
As a Granny of 7 and mother of 2 you will get thru this and have many wonderful times.
Bonnie B

5 moms found this helpful

We have a little saying at our house, "If it's not fun for everyone, then it's not fun for anyone."

They are both bullying each other. Allowing the picking reinforces this behavior. Just remind them that, "in this family, we love and respect each other." Then I'd give separate talks as events happen. If brother pushes sister, talk about how men treat ladies gently. If sister pushes brother, talk about how we take care of everything smaller than us. Then you model how to find a positive quality about each child and have them do the same. Require that they use words with each other (stop referee-ing) to get their siblings attention.

Show them how to giggle and tickle and be silly, but let them know when their picking is out of line and provide appropriate guidance and consequences.

4 moms found this helpful

I'm in the same boat! I hate it. They know I hate it and try harder when I'm around. But, as soon as I'm not, they're at it again. I've asked countless moms who I respect about this. They said you have to stop being referree and just separate them for the peace of the family or let them work it out. It's very difficult. We've started not letting them play together unless they commit to "making someone else happy" while they play. As soon as I hear whining, arguing, or fighting I remind them to make someone else happy or the playing will stop. If I have to stop the playing, then I separate them and take those specific toys away as I don't know who started it and don't care. They have to find something else to play with and alone. If that doesn't work - then I put them to work. They have to sweep and mop. Clean their room. Vacuum. Pick up the yard. Clean out the car.
Anything they can do - I don't care about it being done "well" and keeps them busy. Most of the time, I separate them for the chores - but they end up asking to work together and I remind them they have to make someone else happy. They agree and end up working well together. It's quite funny. We've only started this this summer, so we'll see if it is a long term fix. It is helping (not fixing) so far.

4 moms found this helpful

J.,

Sorry this is late, I don't know how I missed this one. I have to agree with Pam G. Books are not the answer. I guess I am old school also. My kids are all grown, but, we spanked. We didn't even no about time outs. I raised by a single father, grandmother and grandfather for six years, until my dad remarried. I had a sister who was three years younger. We got spanked and if grandpa couldn't get us at the time, we got it later and we knew what for. We turned out fine, without any scarred memories. We learned that if we didn't listen there were serious consequences.

I work sub for one of our local school systems and the kids will come right up to and tell you, "you can't tell me what to do and you can't touch me". I think of what our teachers were able to do and they didn't have the problems our teachers have now.

This is just my opinion and I am sorry if I offend anyone. I am just saying a spanking is not going to hurt your children and I think it is more effective than sitting in a corner. I don't believe in the belt part, but my hubby did (his dad used the belt) and our children only got a spanking with the hand.

4 moms found this helpful

My kids used to say really mean things to each other when they were arguing. I told them that they had to say 10 nice things to each other for every mean thing that they said. They were so mad at each other that it was hard for them to say nice things to each other. They were so funny. They would say things like--You have good teeth. Your shirt looks OK. Your new haircut isn't ugly. They hated saying nice things to each other when they were mad at each other. It wasn't worth it to say the one or two mean things they wanted to say if they had to say 10 nice things. The talking ugly to each other didn't stop, but it really slowed down.

4 moms found this helpful

My children are 20 months apart and are now 11 and 12. When they were younger and would constantly pick at each other, I would have them each apologize to the other (after explaining what went wrong that caused the argument) by saying "I'm sorry, can you forgive me?" and the other child responding with "Yes, I forgive you", then have them give each other a hug. The hardest thing for kids to do is apologize, easier to do if taught when they are young. If this concept is not grasped by the child at a young age, it may never be learned. My kids are very kind, caring and loving of each other now and have been for years. I receive compliments all the time on how well behaved my children are. People ask all the time if they ever fight because they appear to get along so well, and in reality they do. They've learned to respect and love each other. Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful

Good Morning J.,

No matter what people say, I don't believe it is "normal" for siblings to fight, or that they fight for no real reason. Have you sat them down and asked them point blank about it? Do they recognized why they fight? Is it their way of demonstrating a warped sense of affection? Is it what defines there relationship to each other? Is it how they determine their role in the family or compete for parental affection and attention? Sit them down and ask them and wait it out for them to devulge real answers that you can work with. Ignore all of the "I don't know why's", the "just because", the "that's just the way we are", "we can't change now", the "he/she always starts it", and other versions of blame. Mediate and make the come up with their own agreement of behavior, if possible. Or just lay down the law to them. Since they always revert when out of your sight, see what activities will keep them in sight, in voice range, and even make them sleep in your bedroom.

Keep expecting them to change and behave, make your expectations clear. Make it clear that they have to work things out as they grow up. When they are grown, don't automatically place yourself in the middle of their disagreements which will be easier to do once you teach them how to negotiate fairly.

What ever your husband is doing, he needs to pitch in and give them some needed attention.

Whatever resentments the children have for each other with be carried into adulthood if it goes undealt with. Furthermore, the children will only find a million ways of dressing up the real reasons for why they fight. Or worse, it will just become a bad habit which neither has the desire to break.

In Amazon sisterhood,
B.
P.S. At least it's a boy and a girl, and you have a good chance at sorting them out. Your work would be doubled if they were both girls (sorry, it's just part of the patriarchal programming and Texas is worse.) Good luck!!!

3 moms found this helpful

Hi there--I recently read a book that I think is great for sibling stuff called "Mom, Jason's breathing on me!". I am struggling to think of the author but the advice was sound.

Good luck. Spending your life as a referee sounds like NO FUN!

3 moms found this helpful

J.!

You have arrived!!! Welcome to motherhood!!! LOL! I don't know any advice to give you other than...mine are 9 and 14 (sometimes, my 12 year old step daughter is here too). It all eventually works itself out! I promise! My mom had 5 of us and as adults...we love each other and can't go a day without someone being in contact with someone.
Hang in there sister...someday - you will miss these days!

Rebecca

3 moms found this helpful

My boys are 4 and 8 and it is the same thing. I am doing alot of stuff to help build their relationship. We play games together (this takes my involvment) and have "brother" play time which somedays lasts hours. As for punishment I usually make them both lay on their beds for 20 mins. I am just fed up. I just heard a great solution. If they fight they have to spend 10 mins. in EACH others bedrooms. My 8 year old almost died when I told him the new rule and the fighting has almost stopped. As Dr. Phil says (im not a fan) every kid has their price.

3 moms found this helpful

My brother is 48 years old, my sister 41 and I'm in the middle at 46. We grew up teasing and picking on each other just as you describe above - and WORSE!

When we're all together now, we pick up just as if we were 16, 15, and 10... My husband thinks we're crazy seeing as we all hold advanced degrees and my brother even has a PhD **and** an MD! But, while growing up seemed painful, know that it is all in good fun as adults and the memories we have about some of our childhood escapades are priceless!

Mom was the key to success. Every time we fought (or teased), she'd step in, break us up, and remind us how friends will come and go, but family is FOREVER! Lessons I learned from her rubbed off and now when my own daughters "argue", I have them do such despicable things as apologize (… say it again as if you **mean** it!), hug each other (until I say to stop), and (my personal favorite) complete the chores they were supposed to be doing while holding each other’s hands! (Talk about having to figure out **TEAMWORK**!! HA!)

... unfortunately, my siblings' and my pinching, poking, prodding, tattling, name-calling, threatening, and general head-games didn't stop until we'd each moved out to go to college... It’s amazing how a few hundred miles brings a family closer together.

Don’t give up! GOOD LUCK and KEEP LOVING THEM!!!

2 moms found this helpful

I have the same problem. It's funny.....The kids just got hamsters....Now they play with their hamsters together. Amazing.

I like the video 123 Magic
It has great disipline solutions. I get it at the library in Scotts Valley.
I wish my 12 year old could be nice to her little sister who's 6......Just too much age difference I guess.
I agree w/ the TV....My little one used to start out w/ TV in the morning. We removed the TV and now she is a normal sweet girl!!

2 moms found this helpful

My two are always bugging each other too. I've found that I make myself more crazy about it than they drive each other. I've resorted to "hugging time". If they treat each other badly I have them hug for a minute, maybe even a little kiss to go with it. I remind them that they are Brother and Sister and Best Friends too. (hugging time lasts for 30 seconds to a minute, so just a bit longer than a natural hug would last)

Sometimes they get "together time" if they bicker. They are made to play together in the same room, UNsupervised. They have to work it out together without me, and can't come out of the playroom until they are playing nicely together. At 4 and 5 they understand exactly what the point of these excercises is. Learning to work it out with siblings prepares us to work it out with friends, classmates, neighbors etc...

I also remind them that nobody likes to be around fighting, so that is why they are isolated, and NEVER REFEREED. Your a Mom not a ref. Deciding who is in the wrong and who is in the right in a fight doesn't help to end the fighting, it brings you into it. Even if one child is at fault make them figure it out.

Discuss your feelings with the instigator in a quiet one on one "meeting" after they have had time to work on it independant from you.

If consiquences are in order for hair pulling, pushing ie: hurting another person - remove posessions. Start with their very favorite item and take it away for a period of time (1-2 whole days). Put it on a high shelf in plain sight (the top of the frig). If that doesn't work, start giving items to the goodwill. "There are lots of kids that are NOT hurting others that would like to have that item." It sounds extreme, but if you want the fighting to dwindle quickly, it works. It might be hard for you to give stuff away, but you'll get over it as soon as you see how it changes their attitude. It has to be something they treasure, but not their favorite item when it's given away FOREVER. Do it one time and they'll be careful not to test you on that one. A threat of a trip to the goodwill and they'll shape up after it happens once. If you end up going down this path, they have to go with you for the drop off of the item so they witness the item being left behind. FOREVER

Call a family meeting to outline how "picking" at eachother will be handled going forward. Then they know you will no longer allow this behavior or participate in it. Family meeting should be handled like a work meeting. You're the boss you lead the meeting, tell them how it it, and answer questions. Everyone should be present - dad, mom, kids and even baby.

Bickering gets isolation together
Hitting/hair pulling gets loss of posession either temporary or permanent

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

J.,

This is one thing that will drive a mom crazy! My kids are grown now, and we have grandkids! No matter how many times I told them be nice, don't hit, don't kick, don't shove, etc. There were times I was in the same spot as you! Especially with my 2nd & 3rd children, they fought about anything, Josh loved harassing his little sister and making her mad. I did the time out, go to the corner, tell her you are sorry and give her a hug. Nothing worked!! One day when I had enough I told them, I am tired of you two fighting, so whoever hits or kicks, pulls hair, etc. the other one is going to do that back to you! WELL about the 2nd time I MADE them do something mean to the other one it was no longer fun! It put a stop to it real quickly!!

Just remember this though, because my kids have had their battles over the years and yet let someone else pick on them and you will see how much they stick up for one another! That holds true even today! And they are 30, 28, 27, 23, and 20. So as long as you raise them that FAMILY is first you will be fine.

Also as a side note, I know the game stations are popular today, however, my daughter limits her kids on these and there are games she will not let them play because of the aggressive actions in the games.

Something to keep in mind as your children grow, sometimes they learn things from their friends and you have to reinforce that just because someone else acts a certain way doesn't mean it is allowed in this family.

I know you got some great advice and another book you might look at is one about birth order, they are so true it is crazy!! Hang in there
L.

2 moms found this helpful

Dear J. -

I know I am 'late' in responding to your concern, but as the mom of a 19, 18, 16, 14, 13 and soon to be 12 yo twins...could NOT not respond!!

There is (and always will be I suspect) some degree of 'picking' among my kids. But, now that they are a bit older, I CAN say, that when 'the going gets tough', they are absolutely THERE for each other!

The closest response I read here to what I do was michelle's 'face to face' idea...BUT in this house, I do 'back to back'. They have to sit with back's together...and I make them talk thru the issue. We also have regular 'family' meetings where we pass a 'talking stick' around (one can only speak when holding it) and it really DOES help to air grievances. (I sometimes have to use the 'hammer of knowledge'...but THAT is another story!! LOL)

I wish you the best!!
Michele/C.

2 moms found this helpful

Well not sayign it is the best solution,but I have 2 girls almost the same age and they were driving me crazy. I tried an approach that I heard about ton the radio and seen on Cosby, but I made them be together all the time until they learned to get along. One day it was so bad , they spent 3 hours in my oldest daughters room, and I listend on the monitor, they bickered for a while and then by the end of it they got along swimmingly.

2 moms found this helpful

I've heard great things about the book "Siblings without Rivalry." Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

When me and my siblings fought, my mother would make us stand there and look each other in the eye and apologize and say we loved one another and then give the other hugs. My dad just sent us to separate rooms. I'm not sure what really works. We still fought.

I'm expecting a baby and I have a 2 1/2 year old. I've seen some moms on mamasource refer to a book Siblings Without Rivalry. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on that one.

Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

J.,
This is not much of an advice, but I've been going through the same thing with my boys. My husband is out of town all week and my closest relatives lives on the east coast (and we're in TX) and I have no "close enough" friends to "dump" the kids on. But my mom was making me realise that at 8 (my oldest's age), it's when they are old enough to ride their bike and go play at their friends or with their friends for part of the day. I realise it is not always a possible thing to do, but I've tried to include more friends in their play schedule so that they are not always "with" each other.

Hope this bit of wisdom (from my mom, not me) helps in some way...

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

My two oldest are 8 and 5 and they do the same thing. They were picking on each other one day at the pedi's office (younger brother is almost 1 year). My pedi said that his 2 girls were like that also and he read the book "Siblings with out rivalry". Got the book and it sure has helped. My kids still have sibling issues, but the picking and bickering has calmed down alot!! They play together and really help each other out now. It's nice.

1 mom found this helpful

things that help us are:

no tv to start the day-it makes them cranky & irritable
exercise!!! it wears them out and makes them happy!

you got lots of other good advice!

1 mom found this helpful

My 4 year old and 10 year old are the same way. It does work the nerves sometimes. What I do is put them in separate rooms and try to calm them down and focused on something else. Then sometimes I just take them outside and see if they can work some energy off with a change of scenery. That is usually why they get to picking on each other.

I also agree with Karen. To take a priveledge away. I will say wiht my boys it is not the same one all of the time so this would work great.

1 mom found this helpful

I have the Siblings w/o Rivalry, if you are in the Lincoln area I am more than willing to give it to you. Respond if you are interested.

Hey J. P,

Hang in there mommy. I hate the teasing and picking on each other but I now have a house full of teenagers and it really never stops. I sometimes have them stand and give each other a hug and if they know that's coming they will stop on their own. Kids will do this regardless but I try to encourage them to really be mindful of how the other child is feeling at that moment because they may be having a really bad day. Also, there are limits to the teasing. One of my daughter's is overweight, one has vitiligo and one has a learning disorder and NO TEASING OR NEGATIVE comments are allowed regarding those areas. I remind them that they deal with teasing, stares, and comments all day when at school or out in public and when they get home that should be their place to feel comfortable and not be stressed from their own family. You can bet that no matter what if someone else tries it, you will see the siblings band together like nobody's business. I am 40 and my brother and sister are 44 and 48 and we still fuss and fight and tell Mom but don't even think about saying anything bad about one of us!

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