Very Bad Behavior

The Sibling Stalker

Kids fight. But if your son whales on his sister every time she enters his room, you're probably concerned.

Who does it? Children of all ages

What they're thinking It's normal for sibs to get annoyed with each other (think how tense things can be with your brothers and sisters when the family gets together for holiday dinners). But while adults can choose not to spend so much time with a particular person, kids are stuck with their siblings. And all that bottled-up frustration can lead to shoving, wrestling, and slapping. (While a child may have similar feelings of frustration with classmates, he's less likely to act on them due to fear of humiliation or the wrath of a teacher.)

How to deal Instead of trying to find the cause of a brawl and playing referee, Dr. Maidenberg recommends instituting a blanket no-violence policy. "Often, the older child gets punished because he can exert more force and should know better. So in my house, both kids get in trouble when they're physical," she says.

When to call an expert It's not so much the frequency of the fighting that should alarm you as the nature of it, says Dr. Maidenberg. "It's a cause for concern when somebody is getting physically hurt," she says. "In that case there might be something more serious going on with your child, such as an impulse-control issue, conduct disorder, depression, or anxiety."

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