Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Rivalry Between Brothers

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: My two sons, ages 11 and 14, are continually at each other's throats and arguing about one thing or another. They seem to hate being with each other and sometimes treat the other one like an enemy to be defeated. They often treat their friends better than each other.

They are often praised by adults for their respectfulness and good manners, but have always been competitive with each other and are getting worse. I do not know how to handle this or what type of discipline, if any, would make them change. Both have been raised with good values and attend private Christian school. I know they love each other, but just won't admit it. I think they are trying to get attention to establish who's the boss. When confronted about their actions, the younger one denies any wrongdoing, and the older one breaks down and accuses me of always blaming him for the fights.

I am at my wit's end. Their dad is no help. What do I do?

A: Conflicts between siblings arise in any family. Conflict is not bad, but how the children and parents handle those conflicts is important. You don't mention whether your sons' arguments grow into physical contact, so I am supposing it doesn't. You mention that the boys' arguments seem to be an effort to establish who is the boss. The boss of whom -- each other or of you? It seems they are getting your full attention and making you feel responsible.

Generally, parents should stay out of children's arguments, but parents should, with the children, establish the rules of arguing. The first and basic rule is no hitting. You can be very creative with the rest of the rules. For example, predetermine a room where arguments are to be settled and a consequence for both sons if they don't settle. Then, if arguing gets too loud, calmly tell the boys you know they can figure out a solution and that they are to go to the room, settle the argument and come back and tell you what they have decided. They will probably try to draw you into it, but stay out of it.

Be consistent and if after a reasonable time they haven't settled, impose the consequence on both. For more help, I suggest looking into any parenting classes that might be offered in your area. These classes are great for getting support and ideas from other parents going through the same trials of raising an adolescent.

More on: Expert Advice

Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!

8 Products to Help Your Family Go Plastic-Free
How can you minimize your family's exposure to harmful chemicals and lessen your impact on the environment? Try swapping out some of your everyday plastic products with these non-plastic alternatives.

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks