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Sibling Rivalry: Is Cross-Dressing the Answer?

I’ve been thinking a lot about sibling rivalry lately. It started with this post in the arch on-line parenting magazine, Babble, which I must...

I’ve been thinking a lot about sibling rivalry lately. It started with this post in the arch on-line parenting magazine, Babble, which I must confess I found deeply reassuring.

My kids fight all the time. It began when my daughter was born and my son, then not quite three, confessed that he’d “like to throw her in the garbage.” It pretty much went down hill from there. And although as she grows older, they play together more and more, I still spend easily 75% of my time with them breaking up fights (lately, he’s been teaching her how to swear, and I think it says a lot about our household that my husband and I consider that to be progress).

Then I got a hilarious email from a friend with whom I’d shared the above link, who confessed that her kids fight all the time and that she’s not sure what to do about it. Like the author of this article, she lives in a place – she calls it “Stepfordville” – where, as she so eloquently puts it, you hear the “my kids are best friends” bulls#*t all the time (along with, “That b*tch used my recipe and didn’t give me credit,” and “Did you notice Michelle’s boob job?”). Ah, the joys of American suburbia.

I’ve always been a big believer in birth order (here’s a quick primer) and the way in which sibling relationships (or lack thereof) have an enormous impact on who we are as people (Remember that book, Born to Rebel, that came out like 10 years ago claiming that sibling relationships have driven all great historical change?)

I always recommend the book Siblings Without Rivalry to anyone struggling with sibling issues. It provides some great, hands-on advice for how to deal with sibling conflicts (though, as with all parenting books, I seem to forget the “5 Easy Steps” as soon as I put it down…)

I think one of the hardest parts about parenting – and growing up in general –  is learning not to foist your own sibling issues on your kids. In my case, for example, because I was the youngest of four, I find myself naturally siding with my daughter whenever my kids fight, simple because she’s the youngest. I have to fight really hard not to assume that my son is bullying her unfairly.  But when I can stop myself from siding with her automatically, I find that it really helps him not to be as defensive and angry about whatever provoked the conflict (even if he did something wrong).

In the meantime, perhaps I should also take heart in the fact that my daughter seems to want to be a boy. One of her favorite activities these days is to come home from school and put my son’s clothes on. Most days, I simply don’t know what to make of this and chalk it up to a phase of some sort. But perhaps I should take it as a sign that rather than compete with him, she just wants to be him? Hmmmmm…..

******

And speaking of which…On the way to school today, my 5 year old daughter asked my husband if he knew the difference between boys and girls. His initial thought was “uh-oh” (we’re a bit behind on the whole birds and bees discussion, even with our 8 year old son). But just as my husband was about to start sputtering something politically – and anatomically – correct,  she interrupted him and said proudly, as if letting him in on a big secret, that girls have…wait for it…longer hair.

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  1. Robert January 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    Since there is so much sibling rivalry between your daughter and son, This is problem that could be generally addressed. How, let them walk a mile in each others shoes. I know this sounds bizarre, but it works. My nephew was like you son and daughter, except he had 2 sisters (1 older, 1 younger). My brother and his wife decided that they should switch roles, sort of role reversal. They (the girls)were dressed as boys and he as a girl. They spent a month of summer this way. The girls were treated as boys, they had to do all my nephews chores and were only allowed to engage in predominately male activities. It was reversed for my nephew. Yes he did wear dresses and skirts during this period.
    After the month was over they all discussed what they thought and resolved quite a few issues that each had believed existed. My nephew saw some of the problems girls faced as well as the girls facing boy issues. They came to understand themselves a lot better and now get along really well. This resolved a lot of things, but not all. Those not resolved were minor compared to the war going on beforehand between them.
    This may or may not help, but it is an idea at least reviewing.

    • delialloyd January 24, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

      thank you for this thoughtful post. really like this idea-must give it some thought…cheers!

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