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Sorting out sibling rivalries

Published 5:21pm Saturday, June 21, 2014

QUESTION: What can we do about sibling rivalry?

ANSWER: Ask any parent with two or more kids what they dislike dealing with the most and the answer is almost always the same: the teasing, the tattling, the whining, and the bickering. As long as there are brothers and sisters there will be sibling rivalry. Thankfully, there are ways for parents to cope that decrease the hostilities:

•Children often complain that parents are not being fair. The fact is that all things are not equal. Let your children know that the decisions you make are based on need and their best interests, not necessarily on fairness.

•Don’t play referee. If your kids try to get you to choose sides in a dispute, refuse. You can listen carefully, of course. A wise response may be: “That is a problem, all right. How are you going to solve it?”

•We all need our own space. Make sure your kids get some time away from each other.

•Group time is good, but it’s important to make each child feel individually valuable. Make the effort to have 15 minutes of one-to-one time a day with each child: share an activity or a conversation without making decisions or giving directions.

•Meal time and snacks can go more smoothly by letting one child divide the food and letting the other serve herself first.

•Bickering children are often merely entertaining themselves. If the bickering really annoys you, own the problem. Calmly separate the kids into two different rooms for 3 minutes to interrupt the behavior for your own sense of well-being.

•Immediately put away anything the kids fight over for the rest of the day, or any period of time you choose.

•The child who says “me first” immediately goes last.

•All children who make fun of their siblings’ discipline get the same discipline in return.

•When fights break out in the car, immediately suspend the trip. Pull the car over to the side of the road until calm is restored.

•It may be fine for one child to borrow another child’s possession, but he needs to put up something of equal value to ensure it is returned.

•Let your children know you enjoy seeing them cooperate. Smile. It’s likely they will try and do it more often.

 If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out and The Emotional Problems of Normal Children by Stanley Turecki, M.D. at the PRC Specialty Library (105 First St. SE, Austin).


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