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Parenting Spike: The seriously difficult child – Siblings

by Andrew Gibson, Ph.D.


Spike, a ten-year old out of control boy, has a sister. He likes her about as much as he likes his parents which is not at all. His sister comes in handy as a punching bag. Why not? She is just as good as gold. Her behavior is unnatural and it gets under Spike’s skin. Nobody can be that good. They even call her ‘Angelique’. Is that disgusting or what? The reasons it is disgusting is that it isn’t entirely true. That little girl is a con artist. So, Spike feels perfectly justified in punching her whenever she is foolish enough to walk by. Then she screams, “Mama! Mama! Spike’s hitting me again….save me!!” And Mama runs to her rescue yelling, “Spike you horrible child! Take your hands off Angel’s throat this instant! You’ll hurt her!” Oh, really, Spike hadn’t thought about that. If home weren’t so chaotic this fighting wouldn’t be happening. Sibling fighting happens in homes that are filled with tension. It doesn’t happen in calm homes. There is a urban legend out there that says that sibling fighting is a natural part of growing up and that parents just have to put up with it. That’s wrong. Sibling fighting is atypical and can go away. First, parents have to accept that Spike is an angry kid. Then they have to understand that he is directing his anger at them, whether they deserve it or not. Then they have to do something effective about it to make it go away. An end to sibling fighting is a by-product of parenting that can get this kind of situation under control. It will happen when everyone starts taking the bull’s eye off Spike. Spike’s role in the house is to be the resident monster. Everything naturally is his fault. For that reason, Angel can poke him with a quiet verbal stick and get a way it. Everyone assumes the centerpiece is that horrible Spike so they all rush to Angel’s aid, cursing Spike along the way. Well, Angel is just taking advantage of a situation that she understands quite well. She can both victimize Spike and turn herself into the victim at the same time. How do you take the bull’s-eye off Spike’s back? By resolving to no longer let him stimulate you into a negative reaction when something happens. That’s it in a nut shell. You stop making him a center piece and he will get off the table.


About The Author


Dr. Andrew Gibson was born in Detroit at the close of WWII. He grew up in the midst of farming country in central Michigan. Both parents were teachers. He keeps a picture of his childhood companion, Wags, to this day (you had to see the tail to appreciate the name). After discharge from the Navy after the Viet Name war, he graduated with a BA and MA from San Diego State University and earned his Ph. D from the University of Connecticut. He has taught at Portland State University, n Portland Oregon, at the University of Maine, Presque Isle and at SUNY New Paltz. He resides in Eastern Connecticut, with his wife of 41 years, where he conducts a private practice in parenting seriously difficult children. His book “Got An Angry Kid? Parenting Spike-A Seriously Difficult Child’ is the first of a series examining seriously difficult children at various age and emotional disturbance levels. He invites you to find him on the web at


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