Parenting Blog


Sibling Fighting

Why can’t they get along?

sibling fightingNothing grates on parents’ nerves quite so much as the sounds of sibling fighting coming from the next room—unless it’s the shouts of “Moooommmmm, he hit me!” that often follow. While the occasional disagreement is normal, and even healthy, true sibling fighting is a highly emotional issue that can negatively impact family relationships, even into the adult years. So, why can’t our children just get along?

This may not be music to your ears, but the fact is that parents are often to blame in unknowingly encouraging sibling fighting. With a few tweaks to your parenting style, however, you can make a big difference in family harmony.

Let’s begin by becoming more aware of two seemingly innocent things parents do to intensify rivalry. In my next post, we’ll talk about three strategies for dealing with kids fighting.

Two Things Parents Do to Contribute to Sibling Fighting

1. Use Labels – Spoken or Implied
Whenever we label our kids, using terms such as “the smart one” or “the wild one,” we lay the groundwork for sibling fighting. For instance, if you call Little Brother the “family athlete,” then you can bet Big Brother will feel like he’s the opposite of that. Or if Big Sister is the “problem child,” then Little Sister will probably be feeling pretty superior as the well-behaved one. Whether the label is positive or negative, it’s a recipe for a fight as kids struggle with the comparisons you’ve put in place.

sibling fighting

Sometimes labels aren’t spoken—they’re implied. One example of this is a “go-to” kid. This is the child you consistently approach for help when you want something important done quickly and without a fuss. While the go-to-kid feels important, by over-relying on him you imply to your other children that they aren’t as capable, which in turn leads to undue competition.

2. Reinforce “Victim” and “Aggressor” Roles
As parents, we often feel like it’s our job to sort out the “victim” in a disagreement, as well as the “aggressor.” In order to make sure justice is served, we soothe the “victim” with hugs and kind words, while sending the “aggressor” to her room with a “you should know better” reprimand. However, this type of treatment does neither child any good.

Showering the “victim” with attention lets him know that acting as the weaker player in the argument (whether he really is or not) will get him lots of attention—and you can be sure he’ll repeat his performance another time. Meanwhile, the “aggressor” gets it confirmed that there’s power in being the bully—and you’ll see her behavior repeated as well.

Fortunately, there are more helpful strategies for dealing with sibling fighting that don’t reinforce the “victim” and “aggressor” roles—and instead teach them how to resolve their own conflicts in the future. We’ll cover these in the next post. In the meantime, you can begin to improve family dynamics simply by taking a good look at how you compare and respond to the sibling fighting in your house.

Summer Contract For Kids

7 Steps to Beat Summertime Whining

summer contract for kidsIt’s summer! For many of us, this is our favorite time of the year—the slow pace, the long days and no school activities to rush around to.

On the other hand, if we’re not careful, having the kids home all summer with no clear-cut responsibilities can slowly drive us crazy. First there’s the whining for a later bedtime: “But Moooooom, I can sleep in since there’s no school!” And then there are power struggles about family contributions: “I can’t believe you’re making me take out the trash!” And possibly worst of all, there are the endless battles about screen time: “Just one more show, pleeeeeaaaazzzz! It’s summer!”

Whether or not you’re about ready to scream, read on—I have a way to make summer easier on everyone, and it’s called a summer contract.

A summer contract is an agreement between parents and kids about summer expectations. The summer contract can—and should—include things like screen time limits, household responsibilities, summer reading, bedtime, and anything else that’s likely to be a struggle. Kids benefit from knowing their expectations up front, and being able to exercise some control over when family contributions (chores) get completed, for instance. Parents benefit because they now have a way to help their kids have both a relaxing and a productive summer. Here are some guidelines for setting up a summer contract in your house.
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Children Watching TV

Three Key Strategies To Win The Battle Over Children Watching TV

children watching tv

With children watching TV, it is not unusual to hear: “Just five more minutes!” You hear it all the—especially when you’re trying to get your kids away from the television or video games. And as summer kicks into high gear, you may already be wincing about the whining over TV time and video games.

Truth be told, there’s a lot that parents do to contribute to the battles over their children watching TV. For instance, with so many snow days that kept kids home from school this past winter, your might have relaxed your rules a bit to keep everyone sane.
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Kids Not Listening? Don’t Count on 1-2-3!

image of child not listening and talking back

Does it ever seem like it’s impossible to get your kids to listen to you? You know how it works: You ask your child to pick up her toys. You only hear silence. You ask again. Your daughter doesn’t even look up. So you decide to count to get her attention. One. Long wait. Twwwooooooooo. Two and a haaalllllffff. No response. And just as you’re about to proclaim, “Three!” she finally starts cleaning up.

Whew, it worked! Right? Well, not really. The only thing your child learned about listening is that she gets at least five chances, sometimes more, before she really has to pay attention. And is that really what you want to be teaching your child?

Although counting 1-2-3 is a popular parenting technique, it’s not actually effective in the long-term. It won’t help with future behavior, and in fact, this tactic will only guarantee that your child won’t respond the first time you make a request. Which in turn sets your child up for trouble down the road.

Think of it this way: will teachers have the patience to ask your child 5+ times to complete an assignment? Or would a boss give your child 5+ chances to comply with a request? Not likely. So why should you allow your child multiple chances in your home, even as you’re working to prepare him for success in the real world?

What’s more, have you considered what you’ll actually do if your child allows you to reach “Three” when you count?

And how does counting 1-2-3 make you feel? Most likely, desperate and even angry—not exactly the way you’d like to feel about your kids!

image of brother and sister

Counting 1-2-3 is at times used as a “quick fix” for misbehaviors of all kinds, but the truth is, there’s no quick fix that actually works to solve the problem. With counting, time outs, and other “magic wand” parenting strategies, the child simply learns we’re not serious until we get to “three.” We don’t see the long-term behavior change that we’re looking for.

Correcting misbehavior long-term happens instead when we understand:

  • the psychology behind the misbehavior
  • the reasons our current reprimands aren’t working
  • how we contribute to the misbehavior
  • specific tools to correct the misbehavior in the moment and prevent it from happening again.

So, what do we do instead of counting 1-2-3?

For starters, get face-to-face with your child and use a calm, firm voice to state the desired behavior in a way she can understand. Be sure she’s clear on what will happen if she doesn’t follow your instructions. Your calm voice is very important to avoid a power struggle.

image of young girl

For example, say, “Sara, please put your toys away now, or I’ll put them in a box and you will lose the privilege of playing with them for the rest of the day.” And that’s the only chance your child gets. Don’t undermine the training opportunity by repeating yourself over and over.

If your child chooses not to respond appropriately, it’s your job to carry out the consequence in a calm and respectful way. Even if your child has a tantrum, there’s no need to get angry or even respond. Your child is learning a valuable lesson and will soon know that when you make a request, you mean business!

Counting 1-2-3 might seem like a good idea at first, but it soon loses its effectiveness. However, stating a clear expectation with a reasonable, age-appropriate consequence—and then following through—will ensure your kids listen the first time, every time.

5 Steps To Put the Brakes on Back Talk

backtalk5steps_facebookAs a parent, the words “No, I won’t,” or “You do it,” from our kids is enough to make us cringe. In fact, back talk is the number one parenting complaint from all the parents I’ve worked with—and it can be so hard to get kids to respond to our requests without whining, eye-rolling, or simply ignoring us that many of us can’t help but snip back, “You’ll do it because I said so,” or “Don’t you dare talk to me that way!”

Back talk might be annoying and, at times, infuriating, but it’s a common side-effect of growing up and gaining independence. At all ages, kids need a strong sense of personal power on an emotional level. When they can’t get it because we’re ordering them around or doing everything for them, they lash out with words. It’s a typical “fight or flight” response: since they can’t exactly move into their own apartment (flight), they’ll fight back by testing limits and trying to get a reaction.

The best way to stop back talk in its tracks is to allow our kids the positive personal power they need. By fostering independence within our limits, we can help them grow up, as well as limit the back talk, arguing, whining that no one enjoys. Here’s how:

1. Give kids some power
Find opportunities for your kids to assume some control of their own world, whether that means picking their own outfit for the day (for a toddler) or planning an activity for a family vacation (for a teenager). The more positive power you give them, the less they’ll try to get it in negative ways.

2. Don’t play a role
Recognize that parents may unknowingly contribute to the power struggles that produce back talk by bossing kids around too frequently. After all, would you be able to hold your tongue if you were told what to do all day? Limit the ordering, directing and correcting you do by finding alternate ways to get cooperation, and you may find that back talk is greatly reduced.

3. Pay attention!
Your kids have an attention basket that needs to get filled every day—they need your undivided attention, and will get it one way or another! Spend 10 minutes twice a day getting into each child’s world with no interruptions (let your phone go to voice mail), and you’ll see get a lot more cooperation in the future.

4. Refer to the rules
Set very clear rules for your house, and set up very clear consequences for any child who chooses to test them. You don’t have to be overly harsh or strict, you simply need to stick with the limits you put in place.

defiant little girl5. Keep your cool
Your kids may be talking back simply to get a rise out of you—so don’t give them the satisfaction! Simply say, “I feel hurt by the way you’re talking to me. When I hear that tone of voice, I’m going to walk away. We can talk again when you can speak respectfully to me.” Then walk away. Next time it happens, there’s no need for even a warning—simply leave the room. You’re sending the message that you refuse to participate in a power struggle. And when there’s no one to fight with, there’s no fight!

By following these 5 steps, you’ll be able to greatly reduce the amount of backtalk you hear from your kids. And isn’t that music to your ears?

3 Pitfalls To Avoid With Your Tween or Teen

You may not be potty training toddlers or buckling car seats anymore, but your parenting days are hardly over.

As a parent of a tween or teen, you’re likely faced with a child who used to love to spend time with you—but now doesn’t want to get close as she turns instead to her peers.

She also may show rebellious behavior, talk back, refuse to listen and more, to the point of driving everyone in the house crazy.

Don’t worry: not only is this behavior perfectly normal as part of a very important individualization process, but it’s also preventable with a few tweaks to your parenting style.

Here are 3 top parenting mistakes to avoid with your tween or teen:

1. Refusing to let go. Kids in this age group are ready for increasing amounts of responsibility and privileges—but parents are often terrified of letting go. We tend to “clamp down,” trying to exert more control over our kids. This is where a lot of heated power struggles come from.

Instead, respect your child’s need for autonomy, and let go a little as he grows older. Look for opportunities to give your kids more responsibility and decision-making opportunities. Make sure he knows the kind of behavior you expect from him, as well as what will happen if he decides to test your limits. With a little more control over his own life, your tween or teen will thrive, and you’ll love seeing his growing independence

2. Bossing around. No one likes to be ordered, corrected, or directed as they go about their day, and this type of communication is almost guaranteed to make your child shut down and not listen.

Think about it: how would you feel if your coworkers or spouse told you when and how to do everything? If we want our kids to respect us, we need to respect them.

Make sure the requests you make of your tween or teen are reasonable, and phrased in a calm voice. With everything, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone requested it of you. You can still hold your child accountable to what you ask, just do so in a respectful way that empowers her to learn from her choices.

One way to limit ordering, correcting and directing is a tool called “Invite Cooperation.” Tell your tween or teen, “I’m slammed with work tonight, so anything you could do to clean up from dinner would really help me out.” Chances are, she’ll pitch in.

3. Playing for the opposing team. So often, tweens and teens feel like their parents are working against them. We do this from a place of love and concern, but we tend to interrogate, order around, and generally mistrust our tweens and teens. They perceive we lack confidence in their ability to do anything right. If we could show our kids we’re actually on their team, we might find them talking openly to us and actually wanting to spend time as a family!

So how do you get on your tween/teen’s team?

One of the simplest ways is to spend 10 minutes once or twice a day doing something he wants to do.

That can be finding new music online, shooting hoops or simply chatting (not interrogating) about his day. This time will go a long way toward increasing your emotional connection and open the lines of communication—and show your child that you’re on his team, and not against him.

By avoiding these top three parenting pitfalls and truly making an effort to be on their team, you can make a huge difference in your tween or teen’s life. Even better, you’ll prepare your child to become a responsible adult.