Do Your Boys Fight a Lot Too?

Updated on July 03, 2013
M.P. asks from Chicago, IL
17 answers

Hi! I have two sons a 11 year old and a 5 year old (he'll be 6 in 2 weeks) and it seems like they are always fighting. I'm not exagerating. It is very rare that they'll be in the same room not fighting physically or verbally.

When my 11 year old is being really sassy/smart mouth (just normal but annoying kids being kids with the whinny tone of voice) verbally to my 5 year old it really bugs me. These arguments turn into raged physical fights sometimes or one or both of them crying. I keep pleading with my older one: you're older you have to show a good example, you set the tone for how the conversation will go, you have the power to stop the bickering back and forth etc.. But he doesn't listen :( I know that I am also a little hard on my older one (everyone tells me to ease up on him). I just feel bad for my little one. I am an only child so this is all new to me. I just want them to get along and be brothers like I see out and about or hear about. When I got pregnant with my second child I never imagined in a million years their relationship would be like this. They're both good kids & students and both sensitive I know they do love each other. What's up with all the fighting?

Are we normal? Do you have similar experience? Please any insight, advice or help.
Thank you

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much ladies for all of your invaluable responses. I really appreciate all of the input. Everything that was said hit home. I can't believe I've let things get to this point. Thank you!

Featured Answers



answers from Honolulu on

I have 2 kids, boy and girl, 4 years apart.
Daughter is 10, son is 6.

I do not expect my eldest (my daughter) to be the default "example" for her younger sibling. That is a big load on a child's shoulders and it can be stressful and resented. If you make the eldest child the example.

Anyway, with my kids, I always EXPLAIN, the developmental differences, between them per their ages and development. They are just different that way. Not, the same. Hence, their behavior, reflects their age/development. So, they cannot expect each other to be/do/act, the same nor understand things the same.
And I don't side with any of them particularly.

But all siblings, will have times they have conflicts.
BUT you teach them about BEING a team, about being family, about having each other's back, etc. SO that, they see each other as COMRADES and not as, adversaries.
That is what I do with my kids.

The eldest child, should NOT be the one that has to be all PERFECT and an example. It is not fair. At all.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I believe it is the age difference!

My nephews are 5 years apart and they always fought! They are just barely getting along nowadays...and they are 17 & 13!!

But when they were younger, it was constant fighting, they had nothing in common!!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from St. Louis on

Hun, I took a look at your past questions. What is up with the fighting, you divorced, split up, right around the time your youngest was born. It is not even remotely normal for kids with a five year age gap to fight. Sure they may tease and stuff but full out fights that is reserved for young kids close in age with their sibs.

Fighting is probably been his go to attention seeker since you split with their dad.

Sounds like some family counseling would be a good start. It will give you the support system you need.
I could be way off base but I was a single mom for five years. You tend to lean on the older kids and even the best kid is going to resent that and take it out on the younger sibs.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My two boys are 2 years 3 months apart.

They have their moments. They wrestle and play. My oldest son is 13 and is "in love" and "no one understands" as well as going through puberty...they yell at each other, slam doors, about once to twice a MONTH...not every day... being harder on the older one? Gonna backfire on you!!! You need to treat them equally. The older one will resent your younger one - if he doesn't already - since you seem to be harder on him.

If he doesn't listen? THAT'S A PROBLEM. Is he following his father's lead? Is that the example that is being set for him?

They each need to have their own room.
The rules need to be the same for both of them.
you should NOT be pleading with your son. Sorry - YOU ARE THE PARENT. What example are YOU setting for him? Look at the family dynamic...if there's a lot of yelling going's a cycle that needs to be broken. NOW. YOU have to set the good example. That does NOT involve PLEADING with a child.

Once the argument starts:
Mom: do I need to finish this?
Boys: No ma'am.
Mom: Thank you.

If it continues when you walk away?
Mom: It appears I need to finish this. What are we fighting over?
Boy 1: He is in my space and trying to take my game.
Boy 2: well, I want it.
Mom: give me the toy. Now. Please.
Boys hand over toy.
Mom: Thank you. Now you can earn it back.

You set the tone for the conversation. the minute you plead or yell? You have lost the battle.

My boys were just wrestling - it got out of hand. My oldest son used verbiage we DO NOT use in this house. I came in and asked a question or two. He answered. No, we don't talk like that in our home. No, that is NOT acceptable behavior. I do NOT play favorites. I do NOT mince my words with my children.

stop feeling bad for your little one! Start paying attention to BOTH their actions. If the little one started it - you stop him. YOU ARE THE PARENT.

Good luck!

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I am amazed at how many people say their children actually hit each other. That is disturbing. Sure kids bicker, pick, make fun of etc. but there would never be any hitting. SMH

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

My boys are 10 and 12. They're 18 months apart and it is RARE that they argue about anything. They are the best of friends. Intense disagreements usually lead to one of them leaving the room to go do something else.

No, it isn't normal for an 11 year old to be a whiny, sassy, smart mouth. And no, it's isn't normal for "raged physical fights" to occur. It's up to you to put a stop to it.

Separate them. Send the kids to their rooms each and every time they start fighting. Stop putting up with it. That is NOT how we treat one another and it's NOT okay.

You have to teach him how to handle conflict in a healthy way. We're not raising kids to stay kids, we're raising them to be adults some day. How do you want him to behave and deal with conflict as an adult? Start teaching him that.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Not all siblings are going to be best buds. I never was when I was a child, and I'm still not. I know it's hard to hear, but it's reality. 11 and 6...that is a HARD age gap. My husband and his brother have a 5 1/2 year age gap, and my husband really hated it. He was expected to play with a small child, who he had nothing in common with. Not only play, but be the example of behavior. It was hard for him to live up to that expectation, when he genuinely did not enjoy playing with his brother. It's sad, but he viewed as more of a responsibility and burden. (when he was younger, not now.)

I would not accept your 11 year old being smart mouthed, as normal. He should not be allowed to disrespect others. with that said, I don't think you can really expect children of those age to have any commonality. Are they ever allowed to play separately, with their friends?It's very difficult to force people together, that don't enjoy what the other is doing. Even between siblings.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Chattanooga on

I have had 9 brothers.

They did do a LOT of play fighting, but understood and were (usually) respectful of boundaries. Of course, there had their share of real fights too, but were usually separated and sent to separate rooms to cool down until they could apologize.

I would be careful with holding your older one to a higher standard... All that will do is cause him to harbor resentment towards his little brother for getting away with stuff.... And it also sets the example to the younger one that he CAN eat away with more because he is younger. They need to have equal punishments when they are both fighting.

It is normal for the older sibling to try to boss around/show superiority to a younger sibling. He needs to be taught to show respect to his younger brother... But at the same time younger brother needs to learn to react appropriately. (Much easier said than done! Lol.)

It's also normal for a younger sibling to pester and annoy the older, until the older is just done. Same concept; younger needs to learn to respect the older's boundaries, while older needs to learn to appropriately handle the situation.

I imagine its pretty hard to try to solve something like this when you have no sibling experiences to fall back on. I wonder if you could try to find a mothers group and set up some play dates with mothers who have a similar family size. You can watch firsthand how other siblings interact with each other.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Yes, this is common.

But - I would just like to point out that you are probably not helping by holding your older son to a higher standard. He's probably resentful of having to take responsibility for every argument. And the 5 year old is old enough to see the dynamic and know that he holds the cards and can get the older one in trouble. Do not feel bad for the little one - he's not a baby and he is manipulating you.

Any punishment that is imposed for fighting (including verbal) needs to be imposed equally on both, because regardless of who started it, they both have the power to stop it by stepping away. And expectations about treating others with respect also needs to be enforced equally on both kids.

If nothing else, they'll bond over their anger with YOU for the punishment. But at least they'll be bonding LOL.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My girls are so close in age and lately getting along well that I can't offer much advice except to remember when I was a kid. My sister is 5 years older and she's easier going etc so we did ok but when we did fight, i know I got away with much more bc I was younger. It wasn't fair to her in hindsight. So like others have said, be careful holding your older one to such a higher standard. Make sure your younger one isn't instigating things. I know I used to bug my sister till she cracked but then it was still her fault. As I said, not fair. If he's 11, take him alone somewhere and really talk to him. I know my oldest is insanely jealous of my youngest... They are getting along now but I've talked to her about the jealousy. I asked her right out if she's jealous etc and she said yes. Try having that talk with your oldest. Find out why he gets so upset with your youngest. Maybe he just doesn't want to play with him. I don't think my sister spent much time with me at that age... We each were with our own friends. Are they spending too much time together? It's a big age difference. You'd never expect your 11 year old to be "friends" with an almost 6 year old...

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Normal but maybe excessive. Your older one is probably bothered by his litle brother (normal) especially if you are hard on him and super easy with the "baby". So while the 11yr old is the older one and can set the tone and SHOULD be a good example, he probably needs to see you be his advocate too.

I would suggest that you be cautious how hard you are on the oldest vs how much you may baby or excuse the younger one. Make both be respectful of each other. Praise them both when they are getting along but especially your older one when he is being the bigger person/good role model. While you're at it, be sure you get some time with just him (it's hard not being mom's baby anymore).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My girls (three and a half years apart) have always fought a lot too, sometimes physically. They have very different personalities and things have only gotten slightly better now that they are 14 and 17.
as the mom it's up to you what kind of behavior you will tolerate.
I usually stayed out of the arguments because I wanted them to work it out for themselves. When it was clear that things were escalating I would separate them. Even when they shared a room, I'd send one of them to MY room to cool down.
I also tended to put more pressure on my oldest, but I made sure the younger one was called out when she was at fault too.
It's hard when siblings don't get along. But you know they are PEOPLE, with their own temperaments and personalities, being siblings doesn't guarantee being close, but you should expect and enforce rules of safety and respect in your home and family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well, I think you're normal. Mine are five and a half years apart. They are old now. Anyway, they always fought and they love each other like nobodies business. They still do. But anybody gets in the way of them and watch out, brother protects brother-but let me ask, mine were physical, but never to the point of really hurting each other -it was more like a game. Does this seem serious?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It is pretty normal. Mine are 14 and 11 now and they fight and pick at eachother a lot but when I hear it I put my foot down and break it up. My mom tells me to let them work things out but it does not work it just makes them think it's ok to fight. If it's bad they get grounded and yes I am harder on the oldest because he is the oldes and should be the example. His brother is probably just as strong as him but that does not matter. And sending mine to their room does not work because they share. Sometimes they get spanked if it's really bad, grounded if it's not as bad. But they do the most when I am not at home.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I haven't read other responses.

My boys are 9 and 15, and they have never, ever been in physical altercations with each other or with anyone else. Neither has my husband, and I haven't either. I can't even imagine it.

They don't fight verbally either. They have before, but not in a long time. Our oldest is extremely laid back, and logical. Occasionally when the boys were much younger, they would argue, but usually our oldest would see that logically there was no benefit to it, so it ended pretty quickly. For the last several years they haven't argued at all. Of course they disagree sometimes, but it's more of a polite - agree to disagree - sort of thing.

My husband and I aren't fighters either, so maybe that's why the boys don't fight. We have disagreements, but it's rare for us to really argue, and when we do, it doesn't get ugly. We have a very peaceful household.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Sometimes siblings are not compatible.
Instead of being life long friends, sometimes they are life long enemies.
They don't have to like each other but they do have to be at least as civil as they would be to any stranger.
If they can not be civil to each other, then they stay away from each other.
This might mean they spend a minimum amount of time being in any room together.
Don't force them to have to be together - each should have a place they can go where the other is not allowed (sanctuary!).

My sister and I (she's 22 months younger than me) are not compatible to this day and I turn 52 this year.
We fought like cats and dogs till we grew up and moved away from home.
I have almost no feeling in my scalp from all the hair pulling I grew up with.
We live in different states and prefer it that way.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Normal? No way. My boys are 23 monhts apart and they will disagree and argue, but rarely does it turn physical. If it ever did, there is no way it would continue.

My 8 year old is as patient as they come, so when he gets fed up, he will finally get to the point where he wants to hit the 6 year old, but I think it has maybe happened 3 or 4 times since they were out of the toddler ages.

Teach your kids to use their words, it's not too difficult.

As far as the age difference, my younger sister is 6 years younger than I am. I didn't really LIKE her until she was 12 or so. As the baby of 5 she got away with anything and everything, and me being the middle girl, I always was shafted, in my view. But we rarely ever fought. I can't imagine being that much older than someone and thinking it's okay to hit.

Your 11 year old should know better as it is. It's kind of disturbing how many people think it's okay and normal for kids to fight like this.

Mine don't and I have 3 that are spread between 4 years.

1 mom found this helpful
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