Archive for the ‘sibling rivalry’ category

Sibling rivalry? Let it rip.

November 7, 2011
Sibling rivalry is a fact of life. Doing chores together is one way to learn to get along. Not interfering in their arguments is another way to deal with sibling rivalry. you can teach siblings to get along with going crazy. Sibling rivalry is part of family life that teaches children about relationships and life, and themselves.

There are a lot of relationships in this group. My parents are in the middle, surrounded by their eight surviving children and their spouses and children. More children equals more rivalry. I'm in the maroon dress seated, second from the left.

If you have more than one child, sibling rivalry is usually one of your biggest challenges, and the best way for kids to learn to get along with people in the world. Disagreements, jealousy and wrongs are committed among people all the time. The question is, how to resolve them?

An adult friend who is an only child said she hated fighting with her friends “because they always had the option of going home. If you have siblings, they can’t go anywhere. You have to work it out eventually,” she said.

Your kids’ relationship will provide the foundation for the most difficult and rewarding relationships of their lives. Sound familiar? Getting along with siblings is preparation for marriage and work.

The more parents take sides and punish for sibling rivalry, the worse it will become because the kids will use it as a way to manipulate parents. They’re still learning from that, too!

Here are some techniques to encourage them to get along.

1. Put them all in the same boat. Fighting over a toy? Remove the toy. Then encourage them:  “You can have it back when you’re ready to figure out how to take turns/share.”
2. Get them to sit down in two chairs, knees touching, looking at each other. Ask questions. “What’s the problem? Who has an idea on how to solve it?”
3. Take all fights outside or to basement –because audiences make fighting better. Cold weather makes short fights.
4. Make sure your kids are getting sufficient attention from you at neutral times so they’re not using sibling rivalry to get negative attention.
5. Don’t feel sorry for younger and weaker siblings. They have excellent defense and offense tactics. They can also learn the valuable lesson that annoying bigger and older people can result in pain.
6. Use a confident voice and body language when saying, “You  can do it. I know you can work it out.” Then walk away.
7. Put the conflict on the family meeting agenda. This “parks it” for a while and allows time to come up with reasonable solutions. Get locks for doors, put toys out of reach, take responsibility for putting your special stuff away. Etc.  free tip sheet on family meetings at
8. Some problems never go away until childhood goes away. This is life & parenthood. They will grow up and leave home. When you allow them to work it out, they grow closer.

This could happen anywhere

June 20, 2011
when there are few resources, it can cause sibling rivalry. Brothers and sisters can learn so much from being allowed to interact with each other and work out their own problems. Raising children and discipline is all about allowing children to learn how to get along, that fighting hurts, that sibling rivalry is part of life. Sibling rivalry might drive parents nuts, so WE parents must change our behavior and manage our emotions so our children have the opportunities to discover how to make good decisions in life.
Scarce resources make for interesting family times.

Enrique, 10, says, “Dad, can I have some ice cream?

Dad says, “There’s a little left. You can have it.”

Maria, 8, pipes up, “I want some.”

Enrique agrees to share with Maria. Dad is flabbergasted because Enrique has Asperger Syndrome and sharing is rare. Elated, dad goes back to reading his book.

Maria takes more than her fair share and eats it. Enrique discovers a piddling amount left and crows about the injustice for 15 minutes.

Dad tolerates Enrique’s complaints. He doesn’t rush out to the store. When Mom comes home, Dad reports the incident, which re-ignites Enrique’s whining, much to Dad’s annoyance.

This could happen in any family because there are always scarce resources, sibling rivalry, people who will share, and people who will take advantage of their generosity.

Dad asked our parenting workshop, “What to do?”

1. Appreciate that Enrique and Maria have each other to learn from. Sibling offer some of life’s richest lessons.

2. Put the issue on the family meeting agenda — always posted on the fridge, ready to diffuse tense situations and provide a calm forum later. Mom and Dad can ask the kids for ideas on how to handle such a situation in the future, such as “You cut, I pick.”

Write down viable suggestions and agree on which ones to follow, even if parents do not fully support them. Give kids’ suggestions a full trial, which will nurture your child’s self-esteem, connect them to the family, give them faith in the family meeting system and confidence that they will be treated with mutual respect.

During “compliments” Dad can recognize Enrique for sharing, even though sharing doesn’t alway work out. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share again.

This is why I advocate family meetings. They are valuable forums to work out problems, connect to the family and nurture a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

3. Allowing Enrique and Maria to work it out allows them to learn how to manage emotions and behavior. Usually these lessons are painful. Welcome to life – for typical people and those with special needs.

4. Dad can report to Mom out of earshot of Enrique. This would have eliminated the nuisance of chapter two of the complaining.

5. Dad and Mom can privately agree to NOT intervene in the sibling rivalry and announce the new policy at the family meeting. They must follow through by leaving the area, putting on headphones or earmuffs, asking the kids to take it outside, putting the issue on the family meeting, and encouraging the children by saying, “I know you two can work it out.” This is having a plan. Things may get worse before they get better because the kids will test the parents’ new behavior.

YAY Dad for not running out to buy more ice cream, which may create entitlement.

What I love about this scenario is that it exemplifies family life. Having a plan ready, knowing that sibling rivalry is normal and allowing them to work it out allows parents and kids to manage their emotions and behavior.

Mirror mirror on the wall

June 9, 2011
Parents are about the only people responsible for their child's behavior. Their children mirror back their parenting style. The most effective way to solve a discipline problem for a toddler, preschooler, school age, child, tween or teen or teenager is to change the parents behavior. My book Raising Able will give many great ideas on how to solve common discipline problems, which usually stem from the parents.
When our three little children reflected our poor parenting skills, it was motivation to learn positive parenting skills. I found out that I WAS THE PROBLEM .

Do you have a problem child? A difficult discipline problem? A toddler, child, tween or teenager who regularly challenges, aggravates and frustrates you?

I can relate. I had three children in 3.5 years and I yelled at, sometimes hit and often punished them and STILL didn’t get the results I wanted.

Then I found out about parenting support groups and joined one. And then another one. I kept going until I began to lead of parenting groups. We teach what we most need to learn. I learned I was the problem — not my kids! I had to learn different ways to respond to them. It took time, attention and effort — that were worth the investment. Workshops are also fun!

Experts agree.  The most effective way to change a child’s behavior is to change the parent. See this article:

If you have problems with your child’s behavior, then you — mom, dad, whoever is raising the child — must learn to be consistent, show mutual respect and to act, not yak about setting kind and firm limits. Take time to invest in your family’s future with family dinner, family meetings and family chores. Learn how to deal with morning and bedtime routines, homework, sibling rivalry, tantrums, mealtime, power struggles and more.

The best way to improve your child’s behavior is to improve yours. You can read a book — I have one for sale. You can take a course. A
4-week parenting skills course starts tonight — Thursday, June 9, 2011 at Roudenbush Community Center in Westford, Mass. from 7-9 pm. It could change your life . Come tonight for the introduction, no charge, no obligation. If you like it, sign up. Hope to see you there.

If you can’t come, contact me for phone coaching or at your home in the Boston area. Parenting is THE most important — and difficult — task most of us will do in our lifetimes. You can learn to manage your child’s behavior by changing how YOU set limits, follow through, and establish a democratic family where parents and children have rights.

Let them work it out. It will work out better that way.

December 20, 2010
Sibling rivalry is a part of growing up. Holiday times intensify everything -- including rivalry. WHen children fight, the best thing is to let them. Children learn how to negotiate from sibling rivalry. You might be afraid the children will hurt each other. They might. Then they learn that fighting hurts and bigger people are dangerous and can hurt you. Little people have their ways to find revenge against older and stronger and smarter siblings. When parents are judge jury and executioner, it sets up a dangerous precedent.

Two of our family's most prized creatures: Snow Bear and Gonzo.

That’s Snow Bear, given to our four children by my in-laws about 20 years ago. My children, now in their 20s, will see Snow Bear this week and say in jest, “Snow Bear! I want to sleep with him!”

Snow Bear made a limited appearance every December, which heightened his special-ness. You can see, despite his age, he is still pristine. That’s Gonzo beside Snow Bear, another fought-over treasure in our home.

The children fought for the privilege to sleep with Snow Bear and Gonzo. Many tears were shed over who would sleep with Snow Bear.

Christmas is already a time of heightened emotions and expectations that children can barely contain. We adults forget that intense feeling of Christmas anticipation,  which for us would be like a combination of: dynamite about to explode; an unrequited crush on someone; sexual desire; worry over job security; looking forward to a vacation; and meeting your idol — all on the same day.

Kids are going nuts for the next six days until Santa arrives and they have the 15 minute present orgy. Take it easy on them and know that their emotions are on edge. Every feeling will be intensified, including sibling rivalry.

Especially sibling rivalry because brothers and sisters will see each other get something more than they got; or see them get something they wanted and didn’t get; or perceive that mom and dad love brother or sister more.

The best medicine for sibling rivalry:

1. Let them work it out.

2. Even if there’s a big or small age or size difference, Let them work it out. They will and they will learn so much more than you will ever teach them by serving as judge, jury and executioner.

3. Even if you are worried for their safety, let them work it out. Smaller people will learn an important rule of the world: bigger people can hurt you, so don’t mess with them. They will all learn that fighting hurts.

One year Snow Bear went back into the attic because the children couldn’t work out a sleeping schedule for him. Removing a toy is very effective: “Either you all figure out how to share Snow Bear, or no one gets him.” Then take action — quickly and with as few words as possible.

When my children fought, they were escorted outside to resolve the disputes, where on cold nights without an audience, the disputes ended rather quickly.

When children are allowed to work out their differences, they learn negotiation skills, that fighting hurts, that scarce resources can be shared, and most importantly, the self-confidence that they can work it out and make good decisions.

Make sure your children are getting daily doses of positive attention without asking for it and they don’t have to use fighting or other negative behavior to get your attention. As you know, assure them they are all loved equally. Do not show favorites. Do not imply favorites. Just don’t.

Let them work it out.

October 11, 2010


These miners in Chili have learned to get along in a small place with no police. They resolve disputes like a family, by sitting down and talking. Family meetings are an ideal way to resolve conflicts

Photo by


The 33 Chilean miners are on the verge of rescue are reportedly arguing over who will be the first and last ones to exit the mine.

I presume they will work it out amongst themselves — the BEST remedy for any group, including families, to solve problems.

Parents can decrease sibling rivalry among children of all ages and sizes by expecting them to work out their problems, even if they’re not trapped underground for two months.

Children will respond to firm parental body language that says, “This is your problem, work it out.”

Parents empower children when they step out of the sibling fracas. Children will learn fighting hurts and to avoid tangling with smarter, older and stronger people without their personal body guard (parents) on call to defend them.

As most parents know, younger, smaller, weaker children have ways to fight back, which could include manipulating parents to advocate for them, even though the younger child might have started it.

The Raising Able Family Management System follows this precept: put them all in the same boat. Remove the toy or object if they can’t agree on a solution. Use high locks on doors to keep younger children out of older siblings’ rooms. Figure out non-verbal and non-violent ways extricate yourself from the war zone.

Act like they’re at the bottom of a mine shaft. Encourage, expect and empower children to work out their problems. Leave the room, stop the car, use red ear muffs, turn on the vacuum, crank up the radio. Lock yourself in the bathroom. Be creative! They are learning from these interactions.

As with all changes in parental behavior, anticipate the situation  might get worse before it gets better. Children might scream louder and longer and inflict physical pain on each other while they test your new resolve.

Don’t “try.” You must DO. Remember Yoda’s words to Jedi Warriors: “Do or not. There is no try.”