Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fairness Snapshot

The Scenario: Your two sons, ages eight and ten, usually get along just fine. But lately, whenever you have to discipline one, the other tells you it’s not fair. Sometimes, they’ve been so convincing that you’ve not addressed the problem. You’ve explained and explained why they need to stay out of the disciplining of their brother, but they won’t listen. What can you do?

The Solution: Step one is to stop explaining. They’re not listening, and they’re not going to listen or agree with your rationalization of why interfering is wrong. Step two is to realize that you’ve given the boys reason to think you don’t mean what you say. So they have come to the conclusion that if one interferes with a punishment of the other, chances are good you’ll back down.

Step three is to do something to fix the problem once and for all. The next time you’re about to punish one and the other interrupts to plead his case that you’re “not being fair,” respond with: “You’re right. I’m not. So now you both will receive the punishment since you interfered.” Then follow through with punishing both of them. That will stop the interfering soon.


Excerpted from Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, available in October. Posted with permission of Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Separate and Unequal, or Fairness

Over the next several Tuesdays, I’m giving readers a sneak peak chapter-by-chapter at what’s inside my new book, Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, which is available now, with permission of Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

“It’s not fair!” is one of the rallying cries of childhood. At any given moment, somewhere in the world, a child is sure she’s not getting a fair shake. You can’t blame kids for coveting fairness; after all, the concept of fairness seems to be wired into our DNA: Scientific research has discovered that our brains react to perceived inequity the same way as when we respond to the things that disgust us. That ingrained sense of fairness makes us hypersensitive to any slight or perceived inequality.

Our children have fully internalized this and use nearly every opportunity to invoke the “fairness doctrine.” These questions from our kids ring out in practically every family as some point: “Why do I always have to do this?” “Why does [sibling] get a pass and I get punished for the same thing?” “How come [sibling’s] piece of cake is bigger?” Often these queries, delivered in an aggrieved tone of voice, catch parents off guard and provoke angst as Mom and Dad start worrying about whether or not they are treating their children fairly.

That our children have absorbed a desire for fairness should come as no surprise, especially when fairness is emphasized in school (as it should be among peers). As they grow, kids accept that fairness has more nuances. When a child says, “It’s not fair,” she doesn’t mean that in the true sense of the word. It’s because at age six, she doesn’t get to stay up as late as the ten-year-old sibling. Or at age eight, she has to do more chores than her four-year-old brother.

It’s not just the kids who jump on the fair play bandwagon—we often bend over backwards to treat our children fairly. More than eight-six percent of parents participating in my sibling rivalry survey said they try to treat their children fairly or equally.

Practicing the fairness doctrine doesn’t lead to generosity and gentleness of spirit but to grumbling and hoarding. Among siblings, pursuit of fairness as a parent can create conflict, frustration, and disappointment because each child will be constantly assessing everything to make sure things are distributed evenly. Even if you strive for fairness within your family, your children will still find things to pout about, as in “He got more icing on his piece of cake than I did” or “She got new shoes and I didn’t.”


Read more about some areas that parents often attempt to play fair with their children and ways to correct this habit in Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, available for now on Amazon.com, CBD.com and Beacon Hill Press

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Comparison Snapshot

The Scenario: Your two kids each insist that you are favoring the other. How can you convince them you aren’t playing favorites?

The Solution: You can’t. What you can do is examine your own motives for the decisions you make concerning the kids. Are you thinking of them as individuals? Are you allowing your feelings of frustration about behavior color your interactions with one or the other? Are you comparing one with another on a frequent basis? Are you holding up one sibling as the “good” example too often?

Spend some time reviewing your own actions and see if you can pinpoint what might be convincing the children that you have a favorite. If, after you correct any behaviors on your part that could be contributing to their feelings, they still howl about favoritism, you can probably chalk it up to the fact that kids love drama, and ignore the comments. Eventually, as you work on keeping comparisons out of your home, they stop talking about favoritism and realize that they’re both your “favorites.”


Excerpted from Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, available in October. Posted with permission of Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Comparison and Favorites

Over the next several Tuesdays, I’ll be giving readers a sneak peak chapter-by-chapter at what’s inside my new book, Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, which is available in October, with permission of Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.

Parents have been picking favorites from among their children since time began—to disastrous consequences. If you think children are unaware of parental preferences, think again. Whether favored or unfavored, children who know which they are never forget it.

The proliferation of biblical and literary examples show how favoritism wrecks families and sibling interactions. Favoritism rarely has any positive outcomes, and most such tales should be read as cautionary.

Whether we like it or not, all parents have compared their children one time or another. The more we compare, the more we are likely to develop a favorite among the children. While most of us would automatically deny having a favorite, most kids would probably say their parents have a preference for one child in the family. Sometimes, siblings work together to use that favoritism to their collective advantage. I’ve seen this happen in families, where the children will send the youngest child in to ask a favor of Mom or Dad. Sometimes the parents acknowledge they can’t refuse the child anything, and sometimes they will roll their eyes at the audacity of the children to “work the system.”

While we might smile at the thought of kids using “favoritism” to their advantage, playing favorites can tear the sibling fabric. Long-term favoritism leads to resentment, envy, guilt, strife, and a host of other problems, which impact both individuals and the family unit as a whole.

Patterns of favoritism can become ingrained in the family fabric, but the fluidity of family life may help to balance out those preferences. Favoritism can move from child to child, depending on situations in which the family operates. For example, a child could lose favored status because something she does displeases a parent, while a younger child could move into to top spot because an older child leaves home.


Read more about what steps parents can take to largely avoid favoritism in general in Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, available for now on Amazon.com, CBD.com and Beacon Hill Press

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Competition Snapshot

The Scenario: Your six-year-old daughter doesn’t want to try anything because her older siblings—a seven-year-old brother and an eight-year-old sister—excel at everything they do. The older siblings receive numerous compliments for their “amazing” abilities, particularly in sports. Now the six-year-old wants nothing to do with physical activities. What can we do to encourage her participation?

The Solution: Stop asking her. Counter-intuitive? Perhaps, but pushing her to do sports is likely not to help the situation. Ask her—when her siblings are not around—what activities she’d like to try. Then see if there’s a class or group in which she, and she alone, could become involved. Don’t allow her siblings to attend the class or group; let her have this all to herself.

Then to lower competition in your home, don’t talk so much in a family setting about how well the older sibs are doing. Ask different questions about their sports that change the focus from them to someone else, such as “Who did you think played well today?”

Also make sure you’re not contributing to the competitive atmosphere by praising your older children too much. This should help your younger daughter find her own special place and also help your older children realize it’s not all about them and their “amazing” abilities.

Excerpted from Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace, available in October. Posted with permission of Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.


 
Content Sarah Hamaker
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