Sibling Rivalry/Affection

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Around here, we have our fair share of brotherly love. Now that I have a house filled with boys, however, I realize that term is a lot more complicated than I ever used to imagine.

One of the things I love most about boys is that what you see is what you get – for better or for worse. For a long time, I struggled with this facet of my boys’ personalities. They were not able to keep quiet when they were upset, or to just hold that thought until we were at an acceptable time and place to deal with the problem. I saw this as a character flaw that we needed to work on and adjust.

My ideal was to have the kind of children who, when they felt they had been wronged, would lock that emotion away until another time, bring it up in a private setting when we could hash things out.

It turns out, those kinds of children are rare, and mostly they are girls.

Over time, I have come to appreciate this part of my boys’ nature. These boys don’t lock away anything – they deal with the issue right then, which can be frustrating. But the good news is that we never hear about that issue again. That’s actually a healthy way to live.

In our family, when one brother is upset with another – especially if he feels that he has been wronged – it is not unusual for people to take matters into their own hands. By that I mean swift justice and equal retaliation.

That’s all well and good, except that when you’re standing at a First Communion reception and your brother bumps into you, that’s not the time to heave back into him. This same rule applies to a whole host of other social events including Mass, grocery shopping, and your Aunt Joanna’s wedding reception. Not acceptable.

So while I appreciate that my boys don’t bury their anger and let it fester, we are still learning how to handle things in a civilized and acceptable manner.

Beyond general brotherly tiffs, I have also noticed that we as a family go through seasons where, based on age and personality, there might be two brothers who are not getting along that well.

For a long time, this was the case around here. Brother “A” and Brother “B” could barely sit by each other at the table without some kind of issue arising. It was not a constant battle, but I could bet that if there was some kind of squabble among my brood, it generally involved those two being annoyed with each other.

It has been this way for years. A while back, I met a wonderful woman who also has a bunch of boys and she noted this dynamic in our family when we spent some time with her. She told me that in her family of now grown children, there had been a similar relationship among two of her boys, and that those two were now the best of friends.

I’ve written about this before, because it was one of those life-changing moments for me. I felt such a sense of hope for these two – that perhaps they weren’t destined to spend the rest of their lives constantly driving each other nuts.

And sure enough – something has changed. These two boys are now on the same basketball team at school, and this alliance has formed a bond that wasn’t there before. It is beautiful to witness.

It feels like a victory – even just a very tiny one – to see the fruit of some of our labor. It is beautiful to see the love these brothers have for each other, to have a sense of the relationship they are forming that will last a lifetime. An important part of family life is learning to work through the differences you have with these wonderful people God put in your life, the ones you call “sibling.”

When you grow up, the good Lord willing, they will be some of the best friends you will ever have. 1609″ . ,



  1. I hear ya’… When my brother and I were kids, we fought so much our parents got us “Socker Boppers” (think inflatable boxing gloves…). We get along fine now (ah, the difference 30 years can make…).

  2. As a mom of 3 young boys, I was hopping you’d give a magic age where the sibling “love taps” would end.:)

    You always give me hope in raising my boys and thankful for all that they teach me.

    Thank you.


  3. Abigail Hutchinson says

    Hey Rachel,
    My little brother (10 months younger) used to fight all the time…now we work together! Who ever would have known we’d see each other everyday! eheheheh! I nominated you for an award on my blog! Go check it out!

  4. Growing up with three younger brothers I spent much time watching this phenomenon. Especially between the youngest two who would literally spend an entire day fighting only to end up sleeping in each other’s rooms. Now, waiting for baby number 3 (and boy number 2), I’m hoping this doesn’t start too soon.

  5. Oh, there’s hope, there’s hope! I needed this post after this long winter all scrunched together!

  6. The White Clan says

    I am expecting my fourth boy in a couple of weeks, and your posts give me great hope!
    My oldest is 6 and he and my second fight like crazy, which I must admit, I do not enjoy. But on the other hand my second is having his tonsils out in two days, and his big brother is very concerned about his well being, and is actually more nervous than his brother is. I find so much hope in that, I find peace in knowing that he does love him, even if it is very deep down inside.
    So thank you for your words, I love it!

  7. Thank you for this post.