Sibling rivalry - between brothers

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-14-2002
Sibling rivalry - between brothers
Wed, 07-16-2003 - 8:17pm
There's a situation brewing in my fiance's family with two brothers, which relates to the recent topic of sibling rivalry on this board. Frankly, they have me very worried, and I think it warrants a separate post.

Brother #1: age 13 - very kind-hearted, sensitive, a people-person. Constantly worries about other people and tries to anticipate wants/needs, trying to please. Not effeminate (sp?), but rather a nerd. Picks his nose and eats the buggers. So attuned to failure that he ceases to try for success - esp. in school. Won't do chores unless threatened with punishment. Obsessed with money, but refuses to work for it. Poor grades and severely learning disabled. Overweight, detests exercise. Very sensitive to comfort levels (complains loudly about clothing that's itchy, or temperatures too warm, or food that looks "icky" - no matter how it tastes, etc.)

Enter Brother #2: age 11 - a tough, energetic, and unforgiving boy who thinks whining and crying are for girls. A's and B's in school. Maturity level far above his age - more mature than his older brother. Also obsessed with money, but finds odd jobs on his own from neighbors to earn it. Constantly on the go - riding bicycles, mowing lawns, or playing baseball. Rarely complains, except about his brother. Very aggressive in play, often starts fights with schoolmates or his brother. Prideful, but not selfish.

Now these two are about as different as night and day, and they HATE each other. I mean literally. They cannot be left alone together without supervision. Bro.#2 actually gets more freedom, because he's more responsible and trustworthy. Bro.#1 sometimes makes choices that make me fearful of even putting him on the school bus by himself.

I wish I could find a way to encourage a more postive self-concept and responsibility in Brother #1, but it's really HARD to find anything to reward him for! Meanwhile, Brother #2 sees the problems and does the OPPOSITE to try to win all the attention and rewards for himself. Their parents are blind to this game and just perpetuate it, which only damages Bro.#1 more and drives him further into his shell of failures, and drives Bro.#1 toward a more spiteful attitude toward his brother.

Any ideas or advice on how to deal with this? How to help Bro.#1 begin striving for success while teaching Bro.#2 to ease up on his brother and show some kindness?



Avatar for leslie2353
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Wed, 07-16-2003 - 9:05pm
I have two sons, and I remember very well how they behaved when they were younger. Always the younger get teased by the older bro. I end up separating them, one upstairs, one in the basement. They love each other very much, though, no matter how much younger bro. got teased and screaming bloody . @Z! $%#. As long as they played peacefully, I have no complain. Younger bro. adored his big bro. And they still do, now leaving apart. Your rivalry about the brothers, are what you're describing about me and my older sister. I'm sorry, I can't help you, maybe you just leave them alone, and as they get older, some maturity will sink in and they'll grow up to become good men.

Re-reading your post again: bro. #1, is looking for attention, he's bored and unhappy. If he's allowed to buy his own clothes, he won't be complaining. Bro. #2 sounds more like me, yes, he's doing OPPOSITE of his bro. He doesn't want to fail. Bro. #1 needs a good rule model. Someone to show him and motivate him to get up and do something, without punishments. This will make him upset even more. Punishing someone who is not motivated makes them more of a rebel. Just watch me and I'll prove to you, attitude. Ask him what he likes to do / interests: camping, music, playing musical instrument, computer, sports. Give suggestions, listen to him. And help him achieve those goals. Anything to get him off his feet. Does he like to read? Work on a puzzle maybe? Maybe he wants to learn and take a class, find him a hobby he likes. Give him a job that's fun. Just try to keep him busy at something.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2003
Thu, 07-17-2003 - 1:33pm
I am curious to see how people respond to this post. I am in a dilemna about my sister too. I do not think the parents should ignore the problem and hope they grow out of it. My sister and I are in our late 20's and we haven't grown out of it, she has gotten worse, and my mom still ignores it. My sister has resorted to racism at this point in her life. I told my mom if she continues to ignore this issue then I will have to sever ties with my sister. My mom told me to do what I have to do. She believes that my sister and I need to work it out, but it won't, my sister enjoys treating me bad, it gives her a kick out of life, so why would she change? I have bent over backwards to try and get along with her.


Avatar for cl_2and1more
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-20-2003
Tue, 07-22-2003 - 10:14am
It is so wonderful that you care so much for the boys. And yes I know that as a parent you seem to be blind of what other see so clearly.

It sounds like the younger brother is really doing fine. He is maybe maturing a bit faster to kind of make up for his older brother being behind. As far as hating his brother, it seems that maybe the parents could sit down and talk with him a bit or maybe you and your fiancee and ask his what he thinks about his brother and really listen to what he has to say. It would seem that the older brother would be an embarressment to him at school. But let him tell his feelings and then ask why does he think his brother acts this way. Just being able to express his feelings may help him a lot.

Now the older brother is harder. He needs some help. Actually, in everything you said he reminds me of a kid at our church. He was really something. The clothes and even touching really bothered him. His parents took him to be tested and it was found that a connection in his brain was not working properly. He takes medicine that helps him and a diet that helps his body be able to process things better. He was also found to have reactions to different kinds of food. The only thing different was that he learned very well. I remember that the doctor had said that it was the over stimulation that allowed her to figure out the causes. To clothes, light, touch, activities. Now the older brother may have none of these things but I think it would be worth checking out. See about a test of what he may have allergies to. As far as what you can do, find out what interests him and help him to develop a hobby. Maybe he likes his airplane toys, maybe he plays with cars, maybe he reads. Find something he enjoys and take it from there. I hope that his parents will look into some causes of his behavior but if not, you can be there to show him love and acceptance. It is good that he has you.