Sibling Rivalry 2.0


Akka, can you play blocks with me?” Laddu looks at Pattu with pleading eyes. Her Akka looks condescendingly at the magnetic blocks strewn at Laddu’s feet and walks away not deigning to respond.

Akka, open your mouth, I will feed you the gummy vitamins,” Laddu is on tiptoe trying to reach Ammu’s mouth. Ammu’s lips are pursed even as she resolutely waits for Laddu to hand over her share of the vitamins.

Laddu’s plaintive cries make me want to storm to the scene of the altercation. It makes me want to force the Akka(s) to play nicely with their thangai. It takes all of my willpower not to respond.

Most evenings, our home resounds with the sounds of laughter as the girls chase each other. Most days, they play well, sharing toys, teasing each other and being sisterly.

Some days like it has been happening in the past couple of weeks I see episodes of mean girls in my home. The older two lock Laddu out of their play, their rooms, and their presence. They shove, ignore and treat her like she is a nuisance (she probably is).

I remember my little sister following me around. I do not remember how I reacted.

I sit with Pattu on the sofa asking her why she is being mean. I get silence. I change tacks and ask her if she loves Laddu. She replies saying she loves Ammu. I shrug and say what I have to say. I tell her that her little sister wants to emulate her. Laddu wants to be everything Ammu and Pattu are. As much as it seems like she is a bother right now, there will be a time when they will learn to look at that adulation differently. At least I hope so. It is more of a monologue and I walk away after a while. My attempt at a dialogue with Ammu does not go well either.

I am not sure how I should handle this. Mostly I end up playing with the little one. More often than not, Laddu is pushing me away, making a beeline for her sisters.

When Laddu was born, her sisters were over the moon. I watched eagle-eyed for any signs of jealousy only to be reassured by how nurturing the two of them were. Three years hence, I wonder what changed.

Any words of advice highly appreciated.

13 thoughts on “Sibling Rivalry 2.0

  1. You did what you have to. You talked to them about being nicer. Older siblings all go through this phase of ignoring our younger ones. I remember ignoring my sister and running off to play with my cousins who were more my age. They will eventually get over it. If it helps me and my sister who were bitter enemies and would fight all the time are really good friends now.

  2. Watch Full House (not Fuller House) with the kids 🙂 Kids listen to preaching when it does not come from their parents or when it’s disguised in someone else’s life story.

    Hari and Ram mostly enjoy playing with each other but they also need their own space and they are at an age when they understand that each needs both. It’s hard when Hari has his friends come over. I tell Ram that it is his time with his friends and he would want to do things that is appropriate for his (Hari’s) age which is not always appropriate for Ram’s age.

    When they were younger, I used it as an opportunity to teach kindness to the older one (you do things sometimes for the sake of others) and as a lesson in rejection to the younger one (it’s ok that there will be times when anna does not want to play with you). May be carve out a time for them to play together, a bare minimum that Ammu and Pattu should do in their role as their big sisters. Another suggestion is to ask them to problem solve for this situation – what ideas would they come up with to solve this situation? May be giving control will make them more willing?

    A book suggestion – Siblings without Rivalry. I read it long time ago and found it good although I don’t remember much of what it said. Last but not least, the rejection, manipulation, and rivalry is part of the sibling package, enjoy them and see them evolve from it too!

    1. Thank you for the show and book suggestion. Will look it up. I agree they will be receptive to things coming from peers rather than parents. More when we talk.

  3. Well, we are two sisters and I am the younger one . When we were little my sister too used to be mean sometimes .i used to be a pest too. She later( when we were in 20s), told me that she felt insecure and that she felt my mom favored me more and that she felt i was getting more attention from friends and family ( I had a very outgoing personality) . As I grew up I started standing up for myself and we used to fight . But during all these phases , my mom kept reassuring / repeating/ declaring ” we are family, we are kind to each other , we are there for each other , we never give up on each other , we love each other no matter what and after parents are gone you have each other “. Now that my sister and I are mothers , we are never been more closer. I have a son and daughter . There are mean phases here too . I tell them what my mom used to say . And also I give small responsibilities to the older one in taking care of little one and also power for him to give consequences if she is not listening to him ( of course all under my supervision) . Example he helps her with home work ( they are 8 and 5), help her make bed etc and she looses sticker if she doesn’t follow his instructions . It is working for now . She respects her brother and he feels the responsibility to protect her and is kinder to her ( hope they stay like this for ever ). And some mean situation I ignore because I know the next day they are two bodies and one soul.

  4. In our house, it’s the Iyer girls vs the world. No splitting, no tattling, no “but she was so mean”. It’s the parents vs the 3 sisters, because you need to stand up for each other. All that said, little sisters will be ignored and they will grow stronger for it. They will learn that the world does not revolve around their whims and tantrums. They will learn that they are loved even when they are ignored. Big sisters need space to grow, to figure out things without being hounded by meddling hands and minds. Big sisters will soon figure out that it’s nice to be adored, to be worshipped by their little sister.

    Think of it as the phases of the moon – this too shall pass and they will play nicely, and just when your heart fills overwhelmingly with love, they will start fighting 🙂 Keep reminding them of a loving act performed recently. I come down pretty hard on what I call middle-school meanness, so it’s either face Crazy mom or be nice to your sister. That said, I am learning to walk away and let me figure it out over time. Hope this helps.

    1. I have been staying hands-off mostly. It is the meanness that is getting to me. I have a hard line there so invariably they get called out on it. I am trying to figure out what is triggering this.

  5. I am a single kid, and have a single kid; I am clueless. My cousins – two sisters with a four year gap between them – with whom I was (and am) very close, fought like wild cats when they were young, but now you couldn’t pry them apart with a crowbar. It’s just the age, I am sure, and will pass.

  6. You’ve already got some very good suggestions and advice. Like others, I too feel it’s a phase (older siblings get meaner just as the younger ones turn peskier. I remember my sister running away to play leaving me out deliberately. She hated me being there with her friends.) The age difference and the individual phases, all of these play a role. Perhaps, you can set up separate play dates for Laddu with kids of her age. That way, they all will get their necessary spaces. Over time, things average out and they will become friends.

  7. I am the deepest quick sand of sibling rivalry, mostly in one direction. The same as yours. One will be a teen this year and the other will be 9. The younger one adores the older one and will even excuse the bullying. Like you, I will tolerate the ignorance of pleas to play but meanness and bullying is a STRICT NO. Here are a couple of things I am learning. The older one does love the younger one. No doubt about that. In extreme moments, she will be have the little one’s back. The older one is growing (defining herself) and is perhaps going through a self-centered phase of her own interests and needs. The older one feels like we favor the little one for her cuteness and ability to get away with mischief and chores. All these are a matter of fact in the older one’s head. I am trying very hard not to direct the type of activities they have together or the amount of time they spend together. But if something works, like a common program they watch together during which they laugh and discuss it, I let it be. Having said all this, it is a struggle as a mother to be witness to the meanness so I get it and know that you are definitely not alone.

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