When One Sibling Won’t Stop Bothering the Other(s)

 

What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

Often when you are trying to get things done (going shopping, cooking dinner) when your kids are around, things may be fine until one sibling usually starts to bother the others.

Maybe your daughter keeps annoying her little sister, who would be content to draw quietly.

Maybe your son keeps singing a song loudly after his sister asks him to stop.

Maybe your toddler comes along and gets in the way of games that your older children are trying to play together.

And it’s often  the same child who creates these problems, even after you’ve reminded them OVER and OVER to  leave their siblings alone.

Punishments don’t work, yelling doesn’t work, rewarding doesn’t work… that child still continues to bother their siblings. And you don’t know what to do.

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

Children often know they’re not supposed bother their siblings. And it’s not that they want to get punished.

But if you ask them, they can honestly tell you that they don’t know WHY they keep bothering others. Because they’re not aware that their brains are not developed enough to help them control their impulses, especially when their biological needs (for stimulation) or their emotional needs are low.

So they’ll annoy their sister because they have nothing to do, and at least getting a reaction from their sibling (and parent) is more stimulating than doing nothing.

So they’ll continue singing a song after their sister asks them to stop, because they like feeling in control of the situation.

So they will get in the way of the games of the older children because they don’t want to feel left out.

And since their parents focus on telling them what not to do, they don’t know what TO do instead. So they follow their impulse… and bother their siblings. 

 

How It Usually Goes  

When One Sibling Won’t Stop Bothering the Other(s)

Scenario: Harris is trying to do a puzzle. His older sister, Ella, is watching a show on her tablet. Harris tells Ella to turn the volume down but she won’t listen. She keeps watching and doesn’t seem to care how she is affecting Harris.

Harris: Ella! Turn that off!

Ella (ignores Harris).

Harris: ELLA!! MMMOOOMMM!

Mom: What is going ON? What’s all the loud noise about?

Harris: Ella’s show is too loud, and I’m trying to do something.

Mom: Ella, turn that down.

Ella: He’s just doing a stupid puzzle. He doesn’t need quiet.

Mom: Ella, please be respectful of your brother.

Ella: I’m watching something! Why can’t HE be respectful of me?

Harris: I am!

Ella: You are not!

Harris: Yes I am. I’m always sharing my stuff with you.

Ella: Your stuff is stupid. I don’t want it.

Mom: Ella! That is rude. Go to your room if you want to watch.

Ella: The wifi doesn’t work up there.

Mom: Too bad.

Ella: Why are you always nicer to him that me? I’m so sick of it!

Mom: Tough, Ella.

Ella: I hate this family!

 

How It Could Go

When One Sibling Won’t Stop Bothering the Other(s)

 

Scenario: Harris is trying to do a puzzle. His older sister, Ella, is watching a show on her tablet. Harris tells Ella to turn the volume down but she won’t listen. She keeps watching and doesn’t seem to care how she is affecting Harris.

Harris: Ella! Turn that off!

Ella (ignores Harris).

Harris: ELLA!! MMMOOOMMM!

Mom: Yes? 

Harris: Ella’s show is too loud, and I’m trying to do something.

Mom: I’m sorry to hear that.

Harris: Yeah, and I told her to turn it down and she wouldn’t.

Mom: I can see what that would be frustrating… Did you TELL her to turn it down, or did you ASK her?

 

CALM

Instead of thinking about all of the reasons that the kids’ fighting is annoying, Ella and Harris’s mom reminds herself that she can handle the situation. That helps her stay calm so she doesn’t make the situation worse.

 

Harris: I told her.

Mom: What about asking her?

Harris: Ella, can you please turn your music down?

Ella (ignores them).

Mom: Excuse me… Ella?

Ella: What?

Mom: Harris asked you to turn down your volume. Can you please do that?

Ella: He’s just doing a stupid puzzle. Why is my volume bothering him?

Mom: Is there a reason you wanted it that loud?

 

CONNECT

Rather than arguing with Ella, her mom is trying to respect her perspective as well. She knows that treating Ella with respect is more likely to lead to Ella considering her brother’s perspective. 

 

Ella: Yeah, I can’t hear it lower.

Mom: Makes sense. I’d want to be able to hear what I’m watching too. (Pauses) What ARE you watching?

Ella: This show about two girls going to a new school.

Mom: Ah, I bet that’s interesting. No wonder you want to be able to hear what happens. Is there a place you can go where you’ll still be able to find out? 

 

CORRECT

Because she’s treated Ella with respect — demonstrating that her perspective matters too — Ella is much more open to going somewhere else than she would have been if her mom had forced her to leave. 

Ella’s mom gave her tools to be successful by giving her a sense of significance and control.  

 

Ella (sighs): I guess I can go in the living room.

Mom: Sounds good.

 

…And if the Ella Is Still Not Considering Her Brother’s Feelings

  • Her mother needs to make the boundary clear: “You need to find a way to respect your brother’s feelings.”
  • Ella will likely get upset. Getting through the upset might take time, but once she’s out of it, she will have more empathy for brother. (Her upset, or Yuck, is what is causing her to be selfish in the first place.)

 

 

How to Make the In-the-Moment Strategy Work

The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If one sibling is bothering the other(s), remember:

 

Depositing into CALM

Ella and Harris’s mom will NOT be able to stay calm if

a.) her biological or emotional needs are low (if she feels like no one ever listens to her or she has no control over anything)

b.) her expectations are not realistic — if she thinks that Ella will naturally be thoughtful and considerate all the time

When she makes sure her own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Ella and Harris’s mom is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.

 

Depositing into CONNECT

Ellis and Harris’s mom will only be able to connect if

a.) she respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) she understands those reasons (in this case, Ella may be focused on her own perspective and may also enjoy feeling like she has control over her brother)

When she becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, she will be able to connect more effectively. 

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.

 

Depositing into CORRECT

Ella and Harris’s  mom will only be able to use tools to effectively correct if:

a.) She has demonstrated consistently in the past that she means what she says; for example, that when she asks Ella to do something she will not let Ella disregard her

b.) She has made enough deposits into the relationship with each of her children that trying to resolve this issue will not put them deeper into Yuck.

When she demonstrates that she means what she says and when she makes deposits into the kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, she will be able to correct their behavior more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.