Brothers at War

Smile for me now, brother.

Survival of the fittest. Be it human beings or animals, each individual is out for their own personal gain and many don’t care who they trample on in their journey through life.

I was out this morning with three junior school kids between the ages of seven and eight and there was an obvious division of ranks. I had enjoyed a refreshing walk in enlightening company, however I did make a few unsavoury observations regarding the inevitable ball breaking that is necessitated when a new guy enters the playing field.

Be it best friends, brothers or old colleagues, suddenly the size of your package has come into play and more importantly, how big the new guy observes it to be. His opinion becomes the word and nothing else matters. An invisible wall is erected with anyone who doesn’t meet the mark being shafted to the other side and constantly undermined and reminded of their shortcomings.

What worries me is the effect of this segregation on the poor kid that didn’t make it into the club, who didn’t pass initiation. Is his confidence being irretrievably crushed, self-belief destroyed, social skills permanently hindered?

Just how damaging is this daily barrage of verbal mockery inflicted by his self-important older brother, who uses his own acute intellect to his personal advantage, if need be at the expense of his younger brother’s emotional development?

And how should a parent manage this conflict without appearing to favour either one above the other and without deepening the rift between two competitive siblings?

I overheard the 8 year old remark in response to his step brother’s frustration over his 7 year old brother’s infinite string of inquisitive questions (which they both easily knew the answers to), “Just pretend that he is an alien from outer space who has landed on planet Earth with no knowledge of anything to do with humans or their world, and answer his questions with that in mind.”

Ingenious, or demeaning?

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