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The 6 Phases of Summertime Sibling Rivalry

Summertime is more than fun for me. It involves a pattern of sibling rivalry that makes me cringe. Is it the same at your house?
by Michelle Sutherlin Modified: June 10, 2014 at 4:25 pm •  Published: June 9, 2014

Ahhh, summer. No school, the pool, sleeping in and time with friends.

Add to this stellar list quality time with siblings. For the last nine months our family survived the morning routine with minimal fighting between my boys, who are not quite three years apart. Although they fought almost every day, they had several hours of reprieve because they attended separate schools.

So now that the summer has begun, here is a glimpse of the phases of a day in the summer for our family. You might find it to be familiar.

The Honeymoon Phase

The children are so excited to be through with another year of school, they are actually kind to each other. They get along, they share and they don't pick intentional fights with each other. I actually hear them speak kind words to each other, and I feel my heart swell with joy. I look at my children with pride and think, "Maybe they do love each other after all."

The Constantly At Odds Phase

Approximately five minutes after the Honeymoon Phase begins, it ends and this phase starts. Good bye Honeymoon Phase. Those five minutes of peace and love blessed my soul. It might have been the best five minutes of my entire year.

Now we have moved on to being constantly at odds with each other. If Son A wants frosted flakes for breakfast and pours the last of the cereal into his bowl, Son B takes it as a personal attack. If Son B wants to watch “Spongebob,” Son A wants to watch “Sports Center” and there will be NO compromise. If Son A remarks how lovely the blue sky is, Son B demands that the sky is purple, not blue. Really, it makes no difference what Son A or Son B thinks. Their sibling believes the opposite.

As a parent, this is exhausting. As a counselor I do my fair share of mediations, but there are only so many mediations I can do with my children before I am exhausted at the bickering. Fortunately, at about this time, they move on to the next phase.

The I Am Ignoring You Phase

Although my children are somewhat close in age and have very similar interests, my older son rarely plays with my younger son, unless there are other friends over playing, too. My older son ignores my younger son to the point where my younger son is in tears and is frequently having "the worst day of my life." Really all my little guy wants to do is hang out with his big brother, but my younger son is "no fun at all" and sometimes even "embarrassing" to hang out with, according to his big brother.

This is the phase that breaks my heart. I just want my boys to get along. What I have come to realize is this is really just a front. When he thinks no one is watching, my older son does play with my younger son and defends him to others.

The Rocky Balboa Phase

This phase is characterized by my children sparring against each other. This might be a verbal argument, a screaming match, or in some extreme cases, throwing punches, pushes or kicks. About 99 percent of the time, this phase is marked with my younger son crying hysterically because his brother hurt him and is so mean. My younger son is also incredulous, claiming that his brother, "NEVER gets into trouble and I get grounded for a year! OK, a month. Well maybe a week. Or a day."

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by Michelle Sutherlin
NewsOK Contributor
Michelle Sutherlin is a middle school counselor in Norman, OK, who works with students ages 11-15 daily. She is also a mom to two boys, Ryan (12) and Will (9). She and her husband have been married for 16 years. She loves middle school students so...
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