On this week’s Parenting segment, one listener is exhausted amid their young sons’ arguments.
“I have five-and-half-year-old, three-and-a-half-year-old and six-month-old boys,” they told Moncrieff.
“They fight over most things, the eldest losing his temper, getting angry and emotional and often lashing out.
“I try to give the eldest space from the younger boy to separate them but the younger one really gets upset about this and I have another battle on my hands.”
The parent said getting their children to go to bed is the current “battle”, as the boys fight over who goes to bed first.
“How can I stop this ‘not me’ attitude? I’m tired,” they said.
Energy for parenting
Child psychotherapist Joanna Fortune said sibling relationships are children’s first experience of “your very best friend and your very worst enemy”.
“There's two years between these little boys and that age gap makes them developmental competitors.”
Joanna also pointed out that a brand-new baby in the house can also make the older sons feel threatened, causing them to fight over your attention.
Joanna said this rivalry and bickering could go on for “a while” - so the parent must ensure they are equipped with the right mental resources.
“Clearly you're really tired,” she said. “That sort of bickering that's going on between them is hitting you harder because you're under resourced, exhausted and caring for a new child, a new baby.
“Before you take on how you're going to respond and handle this... think in your own family network who can you pull in to help you with this, at least for a period of time.”
Once fully ready to deal with the situation, Joanna recommended the parent encourage “collaborative play” between their sons.
“So, they're playing together rather than against each other or fighting over the same toys,” she said.
“You could do a little scavenger hunt around your home... You could also hand them a box of mixed Lego blocks and take all the instruction manuals away and they have to work together to build something.
“You could set a timer and say for 15 minutes, nobody can use words you can only communicate with facial expressions - you're just getting them to look at each other and end up laughing together about the silliness of it.”
Joanna said the key is to redirect the sons’ energy towards playing together rather than against each other so the parent can have more energy.
Listen back here: