I have an almost 12 year old girl and a 13 year old girl. I am still reading Dr. Bradley's book and I think it is extremely eye-opening and useful. I am working hard on my end to use the tools suggested and I am seeing some results.
While struggling through my own learning process, however, I am wondering how on earth I am supposed to deal with my two kids' interactions. Things between them are getting worse and worse and more violent. The older one verbally needles the younger one constantly. She is a machine. The younger one is an emotional fireball. She bites every time. As an example, this morning my older daughter was wearing something of the younger daughters. Younger daughter screams for her to take it off. Older one says no, you look fat in it anyway. Younger one comes at her as the older one laughs in her face. Younger one grabs the older one's arm and scratches her quite deeply, then runs off crying. Older one comes in and shows me and loudly tells me (a common refrain) that younger one needs to be in a mental hospital. The younger one comes in and is completely distraught that she "did it again." I can see that they are in a pattern that repeats itself over and over again, but I am afraid the violence is escalating.
I am really lost right now. I know when I am feeling like I want to scream back at them for being crazy, I step away (or should step away). I assume I should be separating them, too, but I am not always there with them AND it often happens in a split second.
I know how you feel., I have a 14 year old daughter.
I’m replying because Dr Bradley doesn’t always get a chance to answer everyone. My suggestions: don’t talk, except briefly to announce consequences. Instead, Act. It’s the only thing, in my experience, that will get through. Decide on a consequence that will impress them, such as for every time they argue, they each lose a dollar or 2 from their allowances. Or a ride to somewhere they want to go. Or losing for a day some electronic device they’re attached to.
You don’t have to raise your voice, just quietly put some consequence in place and they will pay attention. Easier said than done, I know.
Unfortunately, sibling conflict is not only common, it turns out to be quite a learning laboratory for kids in terms of learning about conflict behavior and resolution. However, as you noticed trying to mediate it with a "who-shot-who" approach never works. Usually, it just makes things worse.
One trick you can try is to challenge them as a team to get along. One example is to reward them for each AM and each PM they get through without a knock-down, drag-out fight. The trick part is that they win or lose as a team, regardless who who did what to whom, and that you will no longer be entertaining the stories. Once they learn that their privileges (money, cell phones, curfews and so on) are dictated by their peacemaking abilities, you might see a good drop in the warfare. Good luck and keep your head down.
Dr. Mike Bradley