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It is disrupting our entire family ...


My son constantly annoys his sister (2 yrs younger) and his brother (6yrs younger). We have two other children that he realizes his comments don't affect as much, so he does not aggravate them so much. I am worried about my daughter who is 9 1/2. She is so sensitive and cries daily at the insults that my son gives her. It often times leaves her screaming and calling him names which sometimes leads to a consequence for her for name calling. I try to have them work it out on their own, but this only leads to even bigger fights. I try to encourage them to work together and praise them on the very few times that they are getting along or at least not fighting. This does not seem to be helping. It is disrupting our entire family and I am afraid that it is breaking down my daughter's self esteem. Please help!!!!



Hi J.,

I find that when parents continue to experience difficulties after 4 weeks, they have missed a couple important pieces.

Let's trouble shoot...

Below is a summary of all the assignments I gave you in the eBook. If parents do not implement most of these assignments, it is often the "kiss of failure."

For example, the transmission in your car has hundreds of parts, but if just one little tiny part is not working -- the whole transmission does not work. The same is true with this "parent program." Omit just one strategy, and the whole plan runs the risk of failing.

Referring to the Online Version of the eBook:

  1. Are you asking your son at least one question each day that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or a "no" to demonstrate that you are interested in what is going on in his life?
  2. Are you saying to him "I love you" everyday and expecting nothing in return?
  3. Are you eating dinner together at least one evening each week -- either at home or out?
  4. Are you using the Fair Fighting technique as needed?
  5. Do you use "The Art of Saying Yes" whenever your answer is yes?
  6. Do you use "The Art of Saying No" whenever your answer is no?
  7. Do you catch him in the act of doing something right at least once each day?
  8. Do you use the "When You Want Something From Your Kid" approach as needed?
  9. Are you using “The Six-Step Approach” when something unexpected pops-up?
  10. Do you give him at least one chore each day?
  11. Do you find something fun to do with him each week?
  12. When you are undecided about what to say or do in any particular situation, are you asking yourself the following question: "Will this promote the development of self-reliance in my son, or will this inhibit the development of self-reliance?" If it is supportive of self-reliance, say it or do it. If it is not supportive, don't!
  13. Is he EARNING ALL of his stuff and freedom? (see "Self-Reliance Cycle")?
  14. Have you watched ALL the videos in the Online Version of the eBook?
  15. Are you putting on your best poker face when “things are going wrong?”
  16. And perhaps most importantly, are you doing things to take care of your mental and physical health?

If you answered "no" to any of the above, you are missing some important pieces to the puzzle. Most parents DO miss a few pieces initially -- you can't be expected to remember everything! But don't get frustrated and give up. We must be willing to hang in there for the long haul.

I'm talking about refinement here. Refinement is a necessary tool to use in order to truly be successful with these parenting strategies.

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: Parents who refine are, on average, 95% - 100% successful at getting the parent-child difficulties reduced in intensity and severity (i.e., the problems are easily managed).

The same can be true in your case. Continue to refine by emailing me as needed over the next few months. Refinement is a process, not a one-time event.

How can you help your kids get along better?

The basics:

  • Being fair is very important, but it is not the same as being equal. Your children need to learn that you will do your best to meet each of their unique needs. Even if you are able to do everything totally equally, your children will still feel as if they’re not getting a fair share of attention, discipline, or responsiveness from you.
  • Don’t play favorites.
  • Don’t typecast. Let each child be who they are. Don’t try to pigeonhole or label them.
  • Make sure each child has enough time and space of their own. Kids need chances to do their own thing, play with their own friends without their sibling, and they need to have their space and property protected.
  • Never compare your children. This one is a “biggie”.
  • Pay attention to the time of day and other patterns in when conflicts usually occur. Perhaps a change in the routine, an earlier meal or snack, or a well-planned activity when the kids are at loose ends could help avert your kids’ conflicts.
  • Plan family activities that are fun for everyone. If your kids have good experiences together, it acts as a buffer when they come into conflict. It’s easier to work it out with someone you share warm memories with.
  • Set your kids up to cooperate rather than compete. For example, have them race the clock to pick up toys, instead of racing each other.
  • Teach your kids positive ways to get attention from each other. Show them how to approach another child and ask them to play.

Be there for each child:

  • Celebrate your children’s differences.
  • Let each child know they are special—just for whom they are.
  • Listen—really listen—to how your children feel about what’s going on in the family. They may not be so demanding if they know you at least care how they feel.
  • Set aside “alone time” for each child. Each parent should spend some one-on-one with each kid on a regular basis. Try to get in at least a few minutes each day. It’s amazing how much even just 10 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time can mean to your child.
  • When you are alone with each child, ask them once in a while what they like most and least about each brother and sister. This will help you keep tabs on their relationships, and also remind you that they probably do have some positive feelings for each other!

Resolving conflicts:

  • Don’t yell or lecture. It won’t help.
  • Encourage win-win negotiations, where each side gains something.
  • Give your kids reminders. When they start picking on each other, help them remember how to state their feelings to each other. Don’t solve the problem for them, just help them remember how to problem solve.
  • Help your kids develop the skills to work out their conflicts on their own. Teach them how to compromise, respect one another, divide things fairly, etc. Give them the tools, then express your confidence that they can work it out, by telling them, “I’m sure you two can figure out a solution.” Don’t get drawn in.
  • If you are constantly angry at your kids, no wonder they are angry at each other! Anger feeds on itself. Learn to manage your anger, so you can teach your children how to manage theirs.
  • In a conflict, give your kids a chance to express their feelings about each other. Don’t try to talk them out of their feelings. Help your kids find words for their feelings. Show them how to talk about their feelings, without yelling, name-calling, or violence.
  • It doesn’t matter “who started it,” because it takes two to make a quarrel. Hold children equally responsible when ground rules get broken.
  • Model good conflict resolution skills for your kids.
  • Research shows that while you should pay attention to your kids’ conflicts (so that no one gets hurt, and you notice abuse if it occurs), it’s best not to intervene. When parents jump into sibling spats, they often protect one child (usually the younger sibling) against the other (usually the older one). This escalates the conflict, because the older child resents the younger, and the younger feels that they can get away with more since the parent is “on their side.”
  • Teach conflict resolution skills during calm times.

When to intervene:

  • If your children are physically violent with each other, and/or one child is always the victim and doesn’t fight back, you are dealing with sibling abuse. You should probably seek professional help.
  • Dangerous fights need to be stopped immediately. Separate the children. When they have calmed down, talk about what happened and make it very clear that no violence is ever allowed.

Involve your children in setting ground rules. Ground rules, with clear and consistent consequences for breaking them, can help prevent many squabbles. Here are a few ideas:

  • Any child who demands to be first, will go last.
  • If arguing over who gets first choice of bedtime stories or favorite seats in the car is a problem, assign your kids certain days of the week to be the one to make these choices
  • If borrowing is a problem, have the child who borrows something from a brother or sister put up collateral—a possession that will be returned only when the borrowed item is returned.
  • If the kids fight over a toy, the toy goes into time-out.
  • In a conflict, no hurting (hitting, kicking, pinching, etc.) is allowed.
  • No fighting in the car, or you will pull over and stop until all is calm again.
  • No making fun of a child who is being punished, or you get the same punishment.
  • No name-calling, yelling, or tattling is allowed.

What are family meetings, and how can they help with sibling rivalry?

A family meeting is a meeting for all family members to work together to make family decisions and choices by working together. Parents, children, and any others who live in the home and have a stake in decisions affecting the daily life of the family should take part.. Choose a time that works for everyone.

There are two leadership roles at the family meetings: (1) a chairperson who keeps the meeting on track and sees that everyone's opinion is heard and (2) a secretary who takes notes at the meeting, writes them up and reads the minutes at the next meeting. Parents can assume these duties at the first meeting. Later, other family members should take turns so that no one has total responsibility for these tasks.

The purpose of the family meeting is to recognize that everyone's opinion makes a difference. Family meetings help to build cooperation and responsibility, and it make anger and rebellion less likely. Also, it is a time to share love, develop unity, and to build trust and self-esteem. The social skills and attitudes that children develop within the family circle are the skills and attitudes they will carry with them the rest of their lives.

Sample Agenda for Family Meetings: (1)

  • Clarify the issue to be discussed.
  • Determine priority issue(s).
  • Determine the most effective solutions.
  • Discuss family issues, concerns, interests, and positive events of past week.
  • Generate possible solutions.
  • Make plans to implement the solution.
  • Plan one fun activity for the coming week.

Ground Rules for Family Meetings: (2)

  • Everyone gets a chance to talk
  • Everyone has to listen
  • No one has to talk
  • No one puts anyone else down
  • Okay to say what you feel
  • One person talks at a time and does not get interrupted


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