I have 2 boys, a 9 year old and a 7 year old. The elder boy is talkative but totally clueless in describing his feelings. His nature is very adjusting and letting things go comes very naturally to him. The younger one on the other hand is very outspoken and likes to make his choices loud and clear.

Both of them get along together very well. When they are together they don't need any one else. The younger one is overpowering a lot of times and is very strong willed. And physically too he is much stronger than the older sibling. But on the other hand he is also very caring about his elder brother and likes to talk about his brother's likes and dislikes, sometimes to the extent to make sure we as the parents cook the meals that his elder brother likes.

They both also have same choices about things. We also have a rule in the home to buy only 1 of whatever we are buying, to make sure they learn sharing with each other. We make sure to let them know that they are supposed to share equally whatever they get whether it is their regular scheduled iPad time or any new toy. And if they fail to share with each other equally, the iPad or the toy will be taken away. We explain to them that as parents we can get them the things they like, but we cannot buy everything twice.

Now here is where the problem starts:

When we buy something new like a game or a toy, the younger one is overpowering a lot of times and keeps the things to himself for most of the time. The elder one never complains about it since he thinks that the toy/iPad will be taken away if he shows signs of in-fighting or inability to share among themselves. The younger one on the other hand doesn't care about the thing being taken away, he wants to keep things to himself come what may. When we notice this we ask them whether they are sharing equally, but still the elder one doesn't complain.

Now my question is - what should I as a parent do to make sure the elder boy gets his equal opportunity. Sometimes I also think I should not interfere between them since none of them complain. But should I continue allowing the younger one to overpower his elder brother? Shouldn't I do something to make sure the older boy learns to speak up for himself?

I would appreciate if someone can share some thoughts on this to help me.

  • 5
    It seems you place a high value on sharing, and that the eldest is quiet out of fear ("...he thinks that the toy/iPad will be taken away..."). First, have you considered if it is fair to the person getting less time on the device to punish both for a problem caused by one user? Second, If you know this is going on, why do you allow it? If you want them to work it out themselves, then taking the devices away is counterproductive. Aug 17, 2020 at 12:27

2 Answers 2


The elder one never complaints about it since he thinks that the toy/iPad will be taken away if he shows the signs of in-fighting or unable to share among themselves

From what you've said, he's correct to think this. It does seem like you've set up a situation where the choice for the elder is pretty simple:

  1. If he stands up for himself, his brother's likely to complain
  2. If his brother complains, you'll think they're not sharing equally
  3. If they're not sharing equally, he'll lose his access completely

Given that, why would he ever complain or respond with anything other than "yes we're sharing equally"???

There are a couple of things you can do to change the system, from setting up some form of rota access, to having separate accounts for stuff so you can monitor access. But realistically, you need to change the punishment/consequences to "if you over-use it, the other child gets special access".

An obvious example is "their regular scheduled iPad time". Why do they have shared time? Why not give both of them a individual slot or a time-limit?

Another option is to give the elder maybe half-an-hour to an hour extended bedtime in the evening, so you can see what he does when out of his younger brother's shadow. With a two-year age gap, you can age-limit it, so the younger will get it eventually.


Your older son is nine. He's not a toddler. Talk to him! Ask him what he wants. He may simply prefer to keep the peace - and that doesn't seem like such a bad thing, to me; my nine year old would rather fight for every inch. Choosing battles when it matters to you is a great skill to have!

If he's sad about not having equal time, then talk to him about ways to stand up for himself that don't involve fighting. Roleplay ways to gently argue for fair treatment with his brother. Help him devise a system for equal sharing. We did this with our younger son - who is 7 - and it helped him a lot; now he stands up for himself when it matters.

Otherwise, if he's not worried about things - why add stress? Just make sure you talk to him about how he feels periodically - not while it's happening, but shortly after, or perhaps at bedtime. He's old enough to communicate his feelings to you, and to make choices for himself as to what is important.

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