How to Handle It When One Child Keeps Annoying the Other(s)


What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective


Fighting kids can be one of the biggest parenting challenges. But when it’s one child who usually instigates…

When one child keeps making fun of another…

Or when keep getting into the personal space of another…

Or when they won’t stop making noises even when asked to…

It’s hard not to freak out on that child! But losing your cool doesn’t prevent the situation from happening again in the future. You’re just not sure how to make it stop.


What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective


Some children have simply have more energy inside of them. They need to move, they need to do things… they can’t just sit there.

So when they’re asked to “be good” (without something else to focus on or to engage them), they don’t know what to do with their energy.

So they make noises…

And they bother their siblings (who are usually around AND who have a lot less power than their parents)…

Or they make annoy those around them…

Because all of those things create the stimulation that they crave. (And ultimately, they know that they’re the “bad kid” anyway, so they simply live up to the expectations of others.)

How It Usually Goes When

One Child Keeps Annoying the Other(s)



Stuart’s and his sisters Bella and Lizzie are playing a game. While Stuart is waiting for his turn, he keeps whispering mean things in his sister Bella’s ear. Bella whines for him to stop, but he doesn’t. Their dad overhears.

Dad: Stuart! Stop it!

Stuart: What?? I’m not doing anything.

Dad: Leave Bella alone!

Stuart: I’m not bothering her!

Bella: YES YOU ARE, Stuart! You keep whispering that you hope I’ll lose in my ear!

Dad: Stuart, do I need to take you out of this game?

Stuart: No fair! Why do I have to stop!

Bella: Because you’re annoying! And mean! And we don’t want you here!

Dad: Bella, don’t you start being mean now!

Bella: But he started it!

Dad: That’s it! Stop this game, NOW!

Lizzie: But that’s not fair! I didn’t even do anything.

Dad: Well your brother and sister ruined it for you…

Lizzie starts crying. Bella and Stuart keep arguing.


How It Could Go When

One Child Keeps Annoying the Other(s)


Stuart’s and his sisters Bella and Lizzie are playing a game. While Stuart is waiting for his turn, he keeps whispering mean things in his sister Bella’s ear. Bella whines for him to stop, but he doesn’t. Their dad overhears.


Dad: Hey Stu…

Stuart: What?

Dad: How’s the game going?

Stuart: It’s good when I’m winning!

Dad (chuckles): I bet.


[expand title=”CALM”]

Stuart’s behavior is frustrating his dad, but he knows that insisting he’s being obnoxious will only reinforce the negative behavior.

Instead, he stays calm and focuses on helping Stuart instead of making him feel worse. [/expand]

Stuart (smirks).

Dad: You like it when it’s your turn too, don’t you?

Stuart: Yeah.

Dad: How long is it between turns?

Stuart: It takes too long.

Dad: Yeah, I see you sitting there waiting.


[expand title=”CONNECT”]

Stuart’s dad wants Stuart to stop bothering his sister. Instead of focusing only on his behavior, he focuses on Stuart’s point of view. 

He knows that once he figures out why Stuart is bothering his sister, he can give him what he needs to stop. [/expand]


Bella: Yeah, and he keeps whispering in my ear that he hopes I lose!

Dad: I bet you don’t like that, Bella.

Stuart: I didn’t say that!

Bella: Yes you did!

Dad: Hey Stu, while you’re waiting between turns, can you tell me how many letter of the letter A are on the game board?

Stuart: Why?

Dad: It might give you something else to do.

Stuart: That’s stupid.

Dad: OK, what would you prefer to do?

Stuart: I like whispering in Bella’s ear.

Dad: That’s an option. That works for you. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work for Bella. And if you want to keep playing, we need another option. 


[expand title=”CORRECT”]

While Stuart’s dad wants to change Stuart’s behavior, he focuses on the underlying problem — his need for stimulation. 

He focuses on being firm while offering Stuart the tools he needs to behave better.  [/expand]


Stuart (sighs). Well I guess I could get up and walk around while I’m waiting.

Dad: Would that help?

Stuart: Yeah. I just can’t sit still here. It’s boring.

Dad: Fair enough. I’ll watch. And I’m going to remind you if you forget.

Stuart: Fine.



The Foundation That Is Required for This to Work


Though the kids’ dad used the Calm, Connect, Correct strategy, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to give your child tools to be successful (so they can stop bothering people around them), remember: 


[expand title=”Depositing into CALM”]

You will only be able to stay calm when

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

b.) you don’t have the expectation that your children will have the same priorities that you do

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CONNECT”]

You will be able to connect if

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that when kids are bothering others for “no reason,” it’s usually because they are under-stimulated)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively. [/expand]


[expand title=”Depositing into CORRECT”]

You will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “You must find something to engage yourself or you can’t play anymore.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively. [/expand]