Tag Archives: discipline books

Sibling rivalry: what our kids really fight about

My boys, walking side by side. No sibling rivalry here!

My boys, walking side by side. No sibling rivalry here!

Anyone with siblings knows that living with brothers and sisters has its ups and downs. Who else can give you a kiss or a hug, then just a few minutes later pull your hair, kick you, or even worse? As parents, we don’t always get to witness our kids’ quiet, tender moments but we hear the quarrels loud and clear! What the heck are siblings fighting about anyway?

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s must-read book “Nurture Shock” has a whole chapter dedicated to sibling rivalry. As a mother of two young boys, reading these 15 pages has given me a lot of insight and reassurance. Studies show siblings between the ages of 3 and 7 clash an average of 3.5 times per hour. That equals to 10 minutes of arguing every hour – how unproductive! It’s striking to learn that the way siblings interact when they’re little will remain the same in their adulthood (hopefully with less physical fights!). So anything parents can do to encourage positive sibling interactions will have lifetime consequences.

Bronson and Merryman suggest to forget about Freud and his idea that children fight over their parents’ love and attention. Poor Freud, just when I mentioned his Oedipus concept was overblown in my previous post… Well, the famous psychiatrist can roll over in his grave but the data is clear. Less than 10% of sibling fights happen to be over parental affection. As much as we’d like to think our kids worship us, we’re not the center of their arguments. So what do siblings fight about? 75-80% of arguments are about, drumroll please… TOYS!!!

This theory is 100% true at our house! No matter how many toys they have, my boys always want to play with the same one at any given time. This what I get to hear 3.5 times per hour:
“Give me that”
“I want it”
“It’s mine”
“I got it first”
“I was playing with that”
And my favorite,
“Give it back or I’m going to rip your arm off”
This one is my clue to intervene…

Even though individual personalities can shape sibling interactions, the best we can do is to help our kids develop tools for conflict prevention, not just resolution. Bronson and Merryman suggest to help them think of ways to play well together and how to work out conflicts on their own. This is a tough angle for me because my attitude towards any toy conflict is to take the toy away – problem solved! So it’s a learning process for me too – back off and let them figure it out…

Another book I really like on this subject is “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. These two brilliant ladies, also authors of “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk”, provide many tools and tips for parents and kids to handle hundreds of situations. Helping kids improve their communications skills will lead to a more peaceful household. Hmm, maybe we should implement such lessons in the workplace…

My boys still have a lot of skills to learn but it’s good for them to start early, one day at a time! When I hear them giggling and laughing, and making up some imaginary play together in peace, I know something’s working.

Have you found tools that work great to solve or avoid sibling conflicts? If so, would you mind sharing?

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My new year’s resolutions for 2011

2011 new year's resolutionsEvery January many of us decide to make new resolutions to improve ourselves. Some resolutions are health based (lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking), some are financially based (save more, pay off debt), others are family based (spend more time with the kids, start a family night), etc.

Many resolutions fail for a number of reasons. We set the goal too high, we can’t measure it well enough, or we’re just not motivated enough to make it happen. I also believe that by keeping our resolutions private, we don’t feel very accountable and can find an easy way out, without anyone knowing about it.

That’s why I’ve decided to make my resolutions public, and to provide a status update on a regular basis. This year, I’ve decided to stick to only 3 resolutions that I believe will help me improve my imperfect self:

1) Health: Go to bed earlier to get more sleep

Lack of sleep has been a huge problem since I became a mother almost 5 years ago. Too many things to do, not enough time to do them (see resolution #2)… By going to sleep past midnight and getting less than 7 snooze hours a night, sometimes barely 6, I often wake up tired and suffer from low energy throughout the day. By the time my kids get their second wind after dinnertime, my tiredness affects my patience, which quickly dries up (see resolution #3). And when my kids postpone their bedtime as long as they can, I end up exhausted, physically and mentally.

The only way for me to get more sleep is to go to bed earlier, so my resolution is to move my bedtime 5 to 10 minutes earlier every day until I get to close my eyes by 11pm. This is going to be very hard for me, so I’m not setting the bar too high, at least for now!

2) Work: Focus, focus, focus

Ah, so many things to do, so little time… I’ve made so many changes in my life in the past few months, from starting my own marketing consulting business, to creating a new French shopping website, to starting a daily cow sighting blog, to spending two full weekdays with my kids every week, it’s hard not to feel all over the place. A couple of years ago, I read Eat that frog!: 21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time by Brian Tracy, which in my opinion is the BEST no-nonsense book on time management. My goal is to read this book again in January and start implement daily and weekly strategies to get the important things done and maintain better control of my life.

3) Family: Emphasize the positive and swiftly deal with the negative with my kids

Whenever my kids are hungry or tired, or I’m hungry or tired myself, I know it’s a fast way down the wrong hill… Keeping up with full stomachs and rested bodies is a daily challenge (see resolution #1) but sometimes other things get in the way. For example my four-year-old has been more “difficult” and defiant over the past couple of months. As his parents I think we’ve done a poor job at handling his opposition and outbursts. We’ve pressed down on him, using mostly discipline like time-out, but we’ve been terrible at recognizing the positive and encouraging the desired behaviors. I’ve started reading Your defiant child, 8 steps to better behavior by Barkley and Benton and I’m really pumped up about the possibilities. Every step seems feasible and very reasonable but I know that it will take commitment, practice and consistency from both parents to make the changes required. I love my kids dearly and this is my official pledge to commit to this program, for them and for me.

I’m looking forward to working on my resolutions for 2011 and beyond. Have you made resolutions you’ve publicly shared?

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