Sidestep Sibling Rivalry: Phrase No 1

“I’m sure the two of you can work out a solution that’s fair….”

Many parents are sick of acting as their children’s adjudicators.  Not only is this role unpleasant for parents, but it also tends to intensify and feed the jealousy at the heart of sibling rivalry.

Faber and Mazlish (in their wonderful book Sibling Rivalry) offer a fantastic technique for reducing your headaches from acting as judge and jury, as well as reducing the actual level of rivalry between brothers and sisters.

They call it Step In So You Can Step Out and it goes like this….

When the disagreement between your children is reaching uncomfortable levels (you’ve by now become adept at ignoring minor spats having accepted that children will inevitably squabble and your presence is not required in the vast majority of disputes), you Step In and if necessary, take some appropriate action to make sure no-one / no-thing gets hurt / broken e.g. you take away a disputed item.

Then you say:

“I’m sure the two of you can work out a solution that’s fair….”

There are plenty of variations on this theme.  For example, you can say “Oh that’s a tough problem but I have every confidence the two of you can sort it out together….” Or “Hhmmm, two children and only one Nintendo DS.  But I’m sure you can work out a way to share it that works for both of you”.

And then you disappear.  Promptly.  That’s the Step Out bit.

In one little phrase, you empower your children to solve their own problems; you reduce sibling rivalry by suggesting they can work together to reach solutions and by refusing to cast yourself in the role of Unfair Parent with Favourite Offspring; and you transmit to your children the incredibly positive expectation that you have confidence in them to behave socially and equitably.

P.S. also works with non-sibling adversaries!


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