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Sibling Rivalry: A Happier Mom

Sibling Rivalry: A Happier Mom

Our calls with parents often start with questions about homework, chores, or cell phones, but often we end up talking about fighting and bickering among their kids. Several years ago, we received a letter from a parent who had been through Love and Logic classes. Her letter reveals how parents can become stressed with challenges presented by their kids, but it also shows how Love and Logic can provide the solution to the problem and take the stress off the parents at the same time. It read something like this:

Dear Dr. Fay,
I’m writing this letter to tell you about my two sons. Mike is eight and Eric is ten. They used to argue and fight constantly, and my husband and I were about to pull our hair out. Then one night we decided to use some Love and Logic.

This night, near the end of December, our boys wanted to go camping in the front yard. They wanted to set up their tent and pretend. Since it had been in the twenties and thirties at night, I told them they could set up their tent in the living room or in the basement instead. Boy, did this ever start a fight! Eric wanted to camp in the basement, but Mike wanted to camp in the living room.

My husband and I decided to stay out of it and let them work it out. They did! Mike gave in to Eric, and they both ran off to the basement to arrange their campsite. Around 2:00 a.m. in the morning, we heard a horrible sound. Eric and Mike ran into our bedroom pushing and shoving. Eric screamed, “Mom! Daaad! Mike bit me!” Then he held up his arm. No blood, but some slight teeth marks. Mike started screaming too, “He started it! He started it!”

My husband and I were so frustrated we felt like strangling them. Instead, I remembered to use empathy instead of anger. I also remembered that it is okay to delay a consequence until you have a plan. I looked at my boys and, in a call voice, said, “Oh no, guys. Bad decision waking us up. Guess your father and I will have to do something about this tomorrow. Try not to worry about it.”

It was great! I’d never seen them look so confused. Then my husband said, “Go ahead and fight somewhere that won’t keep us awake.” When the boys continued to argue in our bedroom, I said, “The longer you keep us awake, the sadder it’s going to be for you tomorrow.”

The next morning, both came to us and asked what we were going to do. My husband told them they could take the day to think about how they might make it up to us by doing some chores. During dinner that evening, I could tell both were about to explode. Finally, they couldn’t take it any longer and told us they wanted to wash our cars to make up for the problem. My husband said, “That’s a start. Throw in cleaning the bath-tubs and toilets and we have a deal.” The funniest thing was that the boys actually looked relieved!

Now, when the boys start fighting, we just look at them and say something like, “This is so sad. I wonder if you’ll need to do some chores to pay us back for all this noise and hassle.” It’s amazing how quickly they stop arguing. This doesn’t always work. But that’s good, because then I get a break from some of my chores! Sometimes I even find myself looking forward to their fights.

Sincerely,
A Happier Mom

For more techniques for handling sibling rivalry, listen to our audio, Sibling Rivalry: Strategies for Teaching Your Kids How to Get Along.

 

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Charles Fay

angry brother and sister staring at each other