Struggling with my boys

I’ve got to the point in the school holidays where I’ve had enough. Those boys who went away for 12 days and I really missed? I’m struggling with them.

On paper, my 14 year old son isn’t a bad teenager at all. He doesn’t drink or smoke or do drugs. He behaves himself at school (although he doesn’t work much). There are no concerns about underage sex. He doesn’t give his parents cheek or have tantrums and meltdowns at home.

But there is one thing he does do. Constantly.

Wind up his brother and sister.

Teasing, nagging, bullying, nasty names, little digs, hitting and pushing.

It. Never. Stops.

And I don’t know how to stop it.

It makes for a very unhappy home. An unhappy brother and sister and a cross mum. And a teenage boy who keeps getting told off. How can that be pleasurable? Why does he keep doing it?

And my younger son, himself at the start of puberty, has had enough. My once sunny, happy boy veers between bursting with excitement (such as when he got back from Scout camp) to the depths of despair (like when he left primary school). He is no longer willing to be his brother’s whipping boy. He’s fighting back.

And when I say fighting, I mean FIGHTING. Physically.

His brother says one thing to him and he lashes out. Kicking and hitting.

I can understand why he’s doing it, but it doesn’t make anything any better. His brother is still nasty to him. He’s still unhappy. Except now he’s getting told off too. And he’s making me more unhappy into the bargain.

Every day, I have at least two discussions with my eldest about his behaviour towards his brother and sister, but nothing changes.

My younger son asks why I don’t stop his brother and I tell him I’m trying. But I really don’t know how.

All I do know is it’s making every day a struggle. I feel sick, tired and anxious. I feel embarrassed when they fight in public. I feel down when my younger son (or my daughter) cries. Long after they’ve made up again, I’m still feeling it. I can’t cope with it much longer.

Then my younger son hit the nail on the head: ‘But nothing ever happens! You never do anything to him!’

And he’s right. There are no consequences. When you have toddlers and pre-school children, you have consequences for their behaviour – there’s the naughty step and star charts. There are rewards for good behaviour, sanctions for bad.

There’s no naughty step or sticker charts for a 14 year old bully and his volatile 11 year old brother.

I need to start taking privileges away. They’re in that teenage bubble where they don’t appreciate things and see them as privileges – getting pocket money, playing on the Xbox or iPad or watching DVDs – they don’t realise they’re privileges. They think they’re entitled to do these things.

Well they’re not.

If I (and they) want to get back to a life without arguments, there will need to be sanctions. It may be more painful in the short-term, but something has to change.

And going back to school can’t come fast enough.

Has anyone got any advice on how to deal with teenagers bullying their siblings?

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. What a nightmare for you. I think if it were me, I take away Xbox, iPod etc. It work with Alexander when he was naughty at school.

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    • Thanks very much! I’ve tried it before and after the initial shouting and screaming it actually worked remarkably well. As a minimum, I will be tightening up on them as they go back to school.

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  2. Try to set boundaries with them, and make it explicit the reason you are doing things. Make it clear to them that they are choosing that behaviour and that their choice in it causes sanctions such as removal of privileges etc. I would advise maybe having a leaf through some teaching behaviour management booms as they are generally very good at explaining how to cope with teenagers and how to manage their behaviour. (I’m a secondary school teacher so I deal with teenagers a lot!)

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    • That’s great, thanks. I really appreciate that. Yours is just the sort of advice I need! I’m half way there with saying the right things, but I’m going to take a leaf right out of your book and see if it makes a difference.

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  3. Sorry in the short term I don’t think there is a huge amount you can do. Yes you can remove valued items from their lives but that a) makes them resent each other even more b) may well move the bullying behaviour out of your sight and make life more miserable and c) gives them more time to fight cos they have “nothing else to do”.
    I think this is an age old problem that is a normal pat of growing up for all of the family.
    Now the younger one is fighting back, as he has every right too the older one will think it is fun and keep doing it knowing he will get a reaction.
    I like west country dads idea of reading though some literature and see if you can get any pointers.

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    • Thanks very much, another interesting perspective! You make a good point about removing items and that’s part of the reason I’d been reluctant to do it. The Xbox/ iPad etc do have some good points when used in moderation. I will certainly be tightening up on them a lot more when they go back to school anyway.
      It’s good to be reminded that it’s a normal part of family life. I know I used to fight with my brother, but I guess it’s slightly different for same-sex siblings as there is potentially more rivalry. I’m happy to weather the storm and let them grow out of it, as long as none of them do any lasting damage to each other or their relationships with each other – that’s my biggest concern.

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  4. I dont really have any advice unfortunately but besides taking away privileges, do you think a big day out just you and your eldest may help? Get away from everyone and then have a good chat with him? It’s sometime possible that there are other underlying issues, just little things that feel like big things to him (worries another GCSEs, his little brother going to grammar school, a friend issue etc). I do remember being 14 and flying off the handle at every little thing because I didn’t really know how to vent my feelings or frustrations. Good luck though xx

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    • Thanks! That’s a really good idea. I’ve been veering towards removing privileges, but I like this idea. I’m sure a lot of it comes down to jealousy and there are likely to be issues around the grammar school. There’s bound to be an inset day coming up when I can spend the day with just him.

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  5. Aw Sarah I feel for you as it sounds as if its affecting everybody in the house. My 2 (older boy and younger girl) aggravate each other more than bullying, but funnily enough during the holidays they get on so much better. My son has daily pocket money and if he has misbehaved that day he loses it. Depending on the severity he also loses his devices for 24 hours. This works really well for him, and we have noticed a real improvement in his behaviour. Over the holidays I have also tried to spend some one to one time with him which has been nice. God its not easy being a parent sometimes is it. Hugs xx

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    • I like your punishment system! Generally my kids get on better in the holidays too – away from the pressures of routine, but somehow they’re worse this holiday! I think they really need to go back to school. One on one time sounds good and it’s something I should try to do. Thanks very much. x

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  6. Sarah this sounds like a nightmare. We have a lot of low level bullying in our house too but my eldest is only 6 🙁 Hope you find some answers my lovely, I’ll be keen to hear about the things that work for you. Hugs xx

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    • Thanks very much! I think going back to school will be a big help in itself, but it may take more than that. I worry about the long-term effect on my daughter of the endless niggling. I’m hoping the fighting between the two boys is only a blip and they’ll go back to being good friends again soon. x

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  7. Oh hon it’s hard. I know, I find that removing electronics each time they misbehave usually works. Mine are younger, but that’s the only advice I have. xx

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    • Thanks very much! I think taking away the electronics seems to be a big help whatever their age. They’ve actually been behaving better over the last few days, so hoping they can keep it up until they go back to school! x

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  8. Sounds awful but very much like my home at times. My only advice would be to sit down with all of them and tell them how it makes you feel – what you’ve written here. Give them each a chance to talk (without the others butting in) and then dish out some home truths about what will happen if it carries on. Make them realistic and easy to remember! This usually works in our house but trust me, we have very similar conversations!

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    • That sounds like a really good idea. It’s not something we’ve ever done before and I can imagine nobody being keen on the idea – including my husband! But it would be good to talk it through rationally rather than in anger.

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  9. It must be exhausting for you to have to deal with the three of them. My daughters never bullied eachother, but often took their frustrations out on me instead. Refusing to give pocket money, grounding them and confiscating their mobile phones worked rather well here. I hope you find a solution very soon x

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    • Thanks. It is exhausting dealing with the three of them – there’s often two of them in the wrong! Pocket money works well with my eldest, but seems to have less impact on the younger two. I’m hoping going back to school helps. x

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  10. Whilst I agree with Elaine that it IS part of growing up (I am the eldest of four), I would also agree with issuing sanctions. I do think a lot of it is to do with hormones at their age, they still need to learn to control themselves and I don’t see how that can happen without there being sanctions. I also like Suzanne’s idea of all sitting together, perhaps you could use a utensil and when someone is holding it, it is their turn to speak and no one can interrupt. Maybe give everyone a pen and piece of paper to jot thoughts down as they come so they remember them for when it’s their turn to speak?

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    • Thanks very much. I certainly remember fighting with my brother a fair bit growing up, but I don’t think it was constant like it is with my kids. I think sitting down together is a great idea and writing thoughts down is very sensible – it’s so easy to forget what you want to say (for me, as well as the kids!).

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  11. This summer has been amazing but the never ending fighting within my house has totally destroyed every inch of me. I am sick of splitting them up or separating them. It’s so so so hard. It makes me really sad. And it looks like it just gets worse! x

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    • It is so hard when they keep arguing and fighting! My boys have always been good friends, so I’m finding this particularly hard. My eldest has been picking on my daughter for years, though. It’s exhausting! x

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