The following came in a Boston.com readers' Q&A this week with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:
Question I have 3 children, ages 17, 14, and 12. The 14 year old boy and the 12 year old girl fight constantly. Specifically, the boy cannot stand the girl. She walks into the room and he is affronted by her mere presence. Anything she says gets a sarcastic and negative response from him. This has been going on for 3 months. How do I put an end to this? Thanks Barbara, I always appreciate your solid advice.
Barbara Meltz: Is this bothering everyone in the family, or only you? Are they managing it between the two of them, or is it spilling into dinnertime, and other family time? Has one complained to you about the other? You can expect and insist upon civil interactions between them as long as, as a family, you define what that means.
Try a family meeting where you lay out the problem and look for solutions together. On the other hand, if it's that you can't stand to see this behavior between sibs and not that it's hurting the family, you may need to stand back and let them work through it themselves.
Keep in mind that this is a tough developmental stage for each of them; they are constant reminders to each other of their inner fears and worries, especially about things like body image, and especially if one is having an easier time socially than the other.
If they had a good relationship before going into this stage, they likely will coming out, too. One other thought: when you do talk to them about this, be sure to do it in "I statements" ("It hurts me to see you be so mean to each other.") rather than "You" statements: ("Why can't you be nice? What kind of brother have you turned out to be?!")
Do you agree with Barbara's advice? Have some thoughts of your own? Let us know in our comments section, and stay tuned for Barbara's next chat on Boston.com on Dec. 15.