26/05/2009 05:11 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne: Sibling Rivalry

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Laura asks:

Our daughter is really envious of her younger brother and is vile to him when she comes home from school and on/off throughout the weekend.

She is a very bright, funny and warm hearted little girl but she is controlling and has a fierce temper. If she doesn't agree with either me or her Dad, she shouts louder and louder in an effort to wear us down.

Am I right in thinking she is "flexing her muscles" and this is typical 5 year old behaviour or do you think there is more to it? Some coping strategies would be great please as when she is lovely she is easy and a pleasure to spend time with but when she is angry and aggressive it is hard on all of us

Hi Laura

I think all parents of school-age children will recognise the post-school slump. That combination of low blood sugar and mental and physical tiredness means that our children's behaviour is at their worst. So from that perspective, yes it is fairly normal.

As far as coping strategies go, give her a decent snack and keep after-school activities to a minimum. Keep things very low key when she comes home from school – her brother may be ready to play, but she will probably need a rest.

Bickering between siblings is also fairly normal. I remember when my mum used to tell us off for fighting and I would respond "But he's my brother. This is what we do."

From your daughter's perspective, she's been out all day working hard at school, and it can be hard to come home to find that little brother has been having a nice time with mummy or playing with his friends. If she's the controlling type who likes to be boss, she may be struggling with being told what to do at school.

Yes, she is pushing you. Often children remind themselves that boundaries are still there by kicking out against them.

I would start a sticker chart, being very clear about what you expect from her. So not just a vague "Be good", tell her exactly what this involves - talking, not shouting, for example.

Make a big fuss when she behaves well. It sounds like she has lots of good qualities, so help her to bring them out. Let her be in control occasionally – maybe she could choose a weekend family outing.

Hope this helps


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