Dear Dr. Bill,
We have 3 sons, ages 11, 10, and 8. My two older boys often pick on their younger brother. I intervene whenever I can, but my youngest is starting to play victim. He says he doesn’t feel loved by his brothers. I understand that some of this pecking order stuff happens but I’m growing concerned. What do you suggest?
Every parent with more than one child deals with sibling rivalry at some point during the parenting years.
It’s up to you as a parent to nip this stuff in the bud. You mentioned that you intervene when you can, you didn’t say what your husband does.
Dads have a powerful influence on their sons, for good or bad. Boys tend to imitate their father’s behavior, including how he treats others. Does your husband model patience, kindness, and respect in his relationship with you and with the boys?
Does he set firm limits on the boys’ behavior, implementing firm consequences when the older boys pick on their little brother? If not, he’s going to need to step up to the plate.
If your husband is doing these things, the issue may be that the older boys feel they need to compete for your time and affection. Picking on their little brother may be their way of saying “I want you to pay more attention to me.”
One way to solve this problem is to make sure you and your husband schedule one-on-one time with each of the boys at least once a week. This could involve something as simple as a trip to the store or a walk around the neighborhood.
If your older boys are acting out because they’re feeling neglected, this individual time with them may make a big difference.
Thanks for writing Joy. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.
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