Living in a verbal war zone

My boys are fighting right now.

I should be more accurate. Bright Eyes is verbally and posturally attacking his younger brother at every opportunity he can find, every single day.

I say 'verbally' because the attacks are mostly with words, but also 'posturally' because it's not just his words; his whole physical and emotional attitude is one of antagonism.

As far as I can work it out, Bright Eyes is insecure. He desperately wants to prove his competence and his worth because he clearly sees that he lacks in some areas. It's easier for him to squash his closest competition than it is for him to do the hard work of self-improvement or practice or change-making. 

So everything is shades of "I'm better than you." Believe me, there are thousands of ways you can say it, infer it, even 'look' it. 

And his brother, quite rightly, is annoyed. "Do you have to be SO MEAN to me?" he yells. "Why can't you JUST BE NICE! You're HURTING my FEELINGS."

And then he sticks his tongue out or hits him because he's not as verbally adept and his insults are never going to match the level of Bright Eyes' insults because he's had years of practice of verbally assaulting his family with such gems as: "I'm going to chop off your head." (Yes, such was my fate tonight. I can't wait until he is old enough to read Shakespeare. Or watch Blackadder.)

So the pair of them are at each other. And believe me, it's as much as I can cope with.

I've tried everything - points charts, threats, missing out on things, ignoring it, separating them, walking away and then full on yelling and screaming myself. None of it has worked effectively for more than 2 hours.

The latest advice, from the RDI lady who had Bright Eyes in a social skills program last week is to completely ignore Bright Eyes and only focus on his brother, so that's what I've been doing all afternoon. When Bright Eyes said, "You're a nerd and you're going to be punished," I stepped in and said, "You're not a nerd. I love you and you won't get punished. Let's go and get some afternoon tea together."

When Bright Eyes broke his brother's toy deliberately I came in and fixed the toy and hugged his brother and took no notice of the sulking, glowering son behind me.

It got so that Bright Eyes refused to eat his dinner amidst many loud threats and quite a few annoying mild attempts at sabotage of my property but I successfully ignored it all and 'let him deal with it' as my advice had said.

In the end it 'worked'. That is to say, he ate his dinner, refrained from any more insults, actually apologised to me (not his brother) and we had a pleasant half hour all together before bed.

But oh, this is hard work.

And of course, I know that siblings quarrel. I have siblings myself, and I have three other children who quarrel. But I have never seen anything as persistent or long-lived or dedicated as Bright Eyes' commitment to taking down his brother. If we can get this one nipped in the bud, I'll be chalking up another miracle.