Determining Your Discipline Technique

Now that we are in the toddler years with an active and independent little boy, discipline has begun, and it’s in full speed!  Our little guy literally looks at us and smiles before doing exactly what we instruct him NOT to do. Sometimes I get frustrated and other times I have to turn away so he doesn’t see me giggle at his cuteness 😉

I meet many parents in my personal and professional life who do well following the basic rules of consistency and maintaining patience, but knowing which discipline technique to apply is often diffcult.

photo courtesy

Some of the most common methods of discipline out there are:

  • Ignoring the behavior
  • Spanking (Does spanking work? Read what the research says here)
  • Time Out
  • Redirecting
  • Witholding, or taking items of value
  • Positive rewards
  • Grounding

When deciding what method of discipline to use, here are some good factors to consider:

Child’s Personality

Every child is different, so consider your child’s personality, temperament, patters of behavior, and sensitivities when you choose a method of discipline. Some children are so eager to please that just seeing your disappointment is effective, while other children are more strong willed and require a stronger method of discipline.

Reasons for the Behavior

This is always important. Is your child seeking attention or testing limits? Maybe they are overly tired or adjusting to recent transitions in your home? If you can pin point the reason, use this information when you consider your response to their behavior.

Parent Preferences and Expectations

Just like children are not all the same, neither are parents. One parent may be more tolerant of certain behaviors than another, or have a lower frustration level than another. Additionally, parents will have personal preferences for their methods of discipline. Some parents choose not to use time-out and others do. I also know some parents who choose not to use the word “no” around their kids.

Child’s Developmental Age

Obviously what is appropriate for a toddler is not always appropriate for a teenager. I think Dr. Phil has a good age-appropriate discipline list you may find helpful:

Birth to 18 Months


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • RedirectingIneffective:
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs
  • Establishing Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

18 Months to 3 Years


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Redirecting
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs


  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

4 to 12 Years


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Redirecting
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Time-outs
  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges

13 to 16 Years


  • Positive Reinforcement
  • Verbal Instruction/Explanation
  • Establishment of Rules
  • Grounding
  • Withholding Privileges


  • Redirecting
  • Time-outs

This is a topic that could be a blog all by itself, but hopefully these basic guidelines are a good start!


5 Factors That Influence Discipline Strategies

Dr. Phil’s Age-Appropriate Discipline Techniques

Friday Wrap Up 9-14-12: Must Reads and Best Online Finds From the Week!


It’s Finally The Weekend!!

Every week I come across so many informative articles, funny and inspiring quotes, and cool websites. It’s impossible to post them all on my facebook page, so here’s what I came across this week.

Have a great weekend!

1. The Power of a Parents Touch by Kara Fleck on Bamboo Magazine

A beautiful reminder of the importance of mindful affection for our kids. This concept can also be applied to a couple’s relationship as well. Here is a brief clip from the article:

Touch is a powerful thing, especially a parent’s touch. It is likely you’ve seen the power of a parent’s touch in action.  Babies are soothed when folded in loving arms, tears are chased away with a hug, a gentle squeeze of the shoulder that reminds an antsy child to sit still just a while longer, or how a parent’s large hand wrapped around a child’s small one can provide an extra boost of courage. We know that touch matters.

So, let me ask you a question I recently asked myself:  when was the last time you slowed down enough to connect with your child, not just through words, but through a loving, intentionally tender touch?

We touch our children often, of course.  But how many of those connections are made on auto-pilot?  What if we put more intention into our tasks as loving caregivers?  How can we add tenderness to the routine tasks of childcare?

2. Bright Student vs Gifted Learner

I recently posted on Gifted Kids and thought this was an interesting distinction between “bright student” and “gifted learner” and worth sharing.

Pinned Image

3. Play Therapy Pictionary on Creative Counseling 101 is a great therapeutic activity to help children identify and express feelings.

1. Ask your play therapy client to pick five to ten feeling words and write them down. These feeling words should come from feelings the client has experienced in the past day or week.

2. Once the feeling words have been identified, ask the play therapy client to paint or draw (with colored markers or crayons) the feelings on paper.

3.The therapist will call out a word while the play therapy client paints or draws a feeling related to the “feeling word” the therapist stated. This game is similar to Pictionary.

4. The therapist will continue to state the “feeling words” identified by the play therapy client. Each “feeling word” will be drawn or painted to create a unique “feeling picture.”

5. Discuss the drawing or painting after each “feeling word” is stated. Talk about the final picture or painting and process what it felt like for the play therapy client to put the feelings down on paper.

6. The play therapy client may want to take the picture home to celebrate their feelings, or to further explore their feelings.


Friday Wrap Up 9/07/12

Friday Wrap Up 8/24/12

Friday Wrap Up 8/17/12

Friday Wrap Up 8/10/12

Friday Wrap UP 8/03/12

Friday Wrap Up 7/27/12

Own Your Feelings With “I” Statements

background freedigitalphotos.netThis morning I was loading my toddler into the car and he was crying over not getting his way (shocking, right?). I caught myself after saying “You make mommy feel sad when you cry like that.

Can you figure out why I didn’t like how I said that?

What’s wrong with this statement?

I believe words can be very powerful, especially when we use them on a regular basis. When I told my son that he MAKES ME FEEL sad, I am implying he has some sort of control over my feelings. In a way, it’s placing blame on him for his mom’s feelings. Bad news!

What should I have said?

Benefits of Using I-Statements in Communication

  • Practicing and Teaching Boundaries: Healthy boundaries means that I own my own thoughts and feelings. Other people do not control my thoughts and feelings and I don’t control the thoughts and feelings of others. This is an important and valuable lesson for my kids, as welll as maintaining my own psychological health. Boundaries are so important I am working on a blog post devoted to this very topic.
  • Improves communication and conflict resolution: Using I-statements keeps the person you are communicating with from being on the defense. You will be better able to resolve conflict using I-statements, rather than stating “you did this” and “you did that!”
  • Great for all ages and communication levels. You can use this communication technique with anyone and any age. The example I gave above involved communication with my toddler and you can’t get any more basic that that!
How To Use I-Statements:

Start by identifying your feelings- mad, sad, frustrated, etc.

I feel …

State the reason you feel this way or what happened that led you to those feelings.

When …

Try to identify the reason you the person’s actions led to those feelings for you.


Let the person know what you want instead.

I would like…


Your spouse snaps at you during dinner and it really hurt your feelings. Here’s an I-statement to use with this scenario:

I feel hurt

When you snap at me like that

Because I worked hard to cook this nice dinner for us.

I would like you to use nicer words and tone with me, and to know if something happened today that has led you to be in a bad mood.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like anything else, the more you practice I-statements, the better you will become at this very effective communication tool. Use this technique with your friends, family, spouse, and kids. You can also make learning fun with a game!

Use your I’s is one of my favorite therapeutic games. I play this with my younger clients and families and I also recommend this game for parents to play with their kids. You can buy it online at The players draw from a stack of cards with various scenarious that challenges the player to identify how they would feel in that scenario and turn it into an I statement. It is a great tool for teaching 1. Feeling identification, 2. Turning these feelings goointo an I statement, and 3. Role playing to practice the communication tool.

More good references on this subject:—6-Tips-For-Effective-Use&id=10259

So, go out and use your I’s today! 🙂

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Do Your Expectations Meet Reality?

Have you ever noticed how much easier things are the second time around? Once you know what to expect of a situation, or a person, you are more emotionally prepared for how to respond. I recently had a second baby, and while there are differences between my first and second child, my experience has been overall much easier. I was prepared for the late night feedings, funny baby sounds, strange rashes, and even my own physical adjustment.

Sometimes,we don’t always adjust our expectations to reality.  And when this happens, it can lead us to feel disappointed, frustrated, angry, or sad.

Here’s an example- You know your co-worker is not a morning person, but you still insist on talking to them before they finish that morning cup of coffee, and then get your feelings hurt when they tell you to “get lost.” I’m not focusing on the right or wrong of the snappy co-worker here, but if you continue to attempt conversation pre-coffee time and get your feelings hurt every morning, it’s time to adjust your expectations of early morning interactions with that person.

Disclaimer: this post is not about setting high expectations for your kids to make good grades, or for you to meet your weight loss goals, etc. This is about the emotions that we feel when we expect one outcome and we get another. I believe that if our emotions are appropriate with the situation, we can respond that much better in finding a solution.

When I was an intern, one of my supervisors had a great illustration for expectations versus reality that I have found to be so true. The idea:

The greater the gap between your expectations and reality, the greater the emotional distress you will feel.

I did some searching online to find the perfect illustration for you (because I have no idea how to create my own or time to learn). I didn’t find exactly what I needed, but I found something pretty close. (although, it’s a pretty good post so click on the picture for a link to the source).

For the purpose of this post, pretend the “Opportunity” is not there. Just focus on the area of disappointment. Assume that “Disappointment” here can also be anger, frustration, or sadness. You can see from this illustration that the farther away your expectations are from reality, the greater the emotional gap will be. Now, visualize the “Expectation” and “Reality” lines moving closer together. The “Disappointment” line gets smaller.

Expectations and Relationships: At some point in your life, you have probably felt let down and angry about something your significant other did or said, even though you should have expected it based on past experience. Men and women in relationships with someone with ADD/ADHD report feeling extremely frustrated when things don’t get done. The couple may struggle for years, while patterns persist and emotions continue to rise. Knowing your partner’s personality, patterns, strenghts, and weaknessness will help you in setting expectations realistically.

Expectations and Kids: My toddler has a routine, and part of that routine is his meal and snack times. I know that if he misses lunch or a snack and feels hungry, he is a very cranky little man (like most of us). However, I will admit that I have thrown out this bit of knowledge on occassion and become very frustrated with him for getting fussy, only to remind myself that dinner is late (or whatever the chaous may be that day) and punishment is not the solution… food is the solution! It’s important to remember the needs and patterns of our kids because it can help us to maintain some sanity when they are behaving inappropriately.

Expectations and Ourselves: Many people are harder on themselves than they should be. When I was an intern, just starting out in counseling, I pictured myself in my first session as comfortable, confident, and recalling all the techniques and theories I learned in graduae school. Boy, was I let down. I was nervous, awkard, and all my graduate school classes swirled around my head like a tornado! It took some support from fellow counselors to reassure me I would be better with experience. A more realistic expectation for myself would have been one with the expectation that I was inexperienced and trying something for the first time.

Expectations and Circumstances: Like I mentioned above about the second baby being easier than the first, it was because I knew what to expect of my life after having a baby. What if I had convinced myself that this baby would sleep through the night, or that I would be back in my skinny jeans in two weeks? There would have been a huge HUGE gap between those expectations and reality and I would have been very VERY disappointed.

So how do we make sure our expectations are close to reality?

  • Consider past experiences/behaviors
  • Consider patterns
  • Consider an individual’s abilities and limitations
  • Be flexible with new situations, understanding there will be surprises along the way

There is so much more that can be said on the topic, but hopefully you get the idea. What areas of your life have you been repeatedly disappointed? Maybe it’s time to evaluate your expectations and save yourself some frustration, disappointment, or more.

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Gold Medal Rules in Parenting (And Mom Wins the Gold!)

I stumbled upon a good article online at Parenting Magazine titled Quirky Discipline Rules That Work. This article is floating around on Pinterest right now and mothers everywhere are excited about the techniques offered by the author, who is also speaking from experience as a mom.

What I really like about these techniques, and the reason they get such good results, is because they follow the premise of a few golden rules. If you get the philosophy behind the techniques, you can come up with some creative ways to use them and come up with your own “quirky rules”, just like the moms in this article showed us. Aren’t they all about tricking our kids into doing what we want anyways? 🙂

1. Kids want to feel in control. I believe everyone likes to feel some degree of control over their life. My 18 month old already insists on choosing which socks and shoes he will wear to daycare.  Allowing kids an opportunity to make choices helps to fulfill that need for control and independence. When the author tells her kids they can be loud as long as it is in another room, or they can choose to stay in the room with her as long as they helped with the laundry, this is giving them a choice in how or where they will behave. Here’s an exerpt from the the article:

And then one day, as my oldest foster daughter sat and watched me work, asking me favors and waiting for me to be done, I came up with a rule that takes into account two important facts about kids:

* They actually want to be with you as much as possible.

* You can’t force them to help you in any way that is truly helpful.

I played fact one against fact two and told her that she didn’t have to help me but couldn’t just sit and watch. She had to go elsewhere. Given a choice between being with me and folding laundry or not being with me at all, she took option one.

Why it works: I didn’t care which she chose. And it was her choice, so it gave her control even as it took it away.

2. You can only control you. No matter how hard we try, we cannot control our kids like we think. By declaring herself “off duty” at 8:00pm, the author realized that she could not control the behaviors of her family. She could only control herself.  Once they learned she was serious about her 8 o’clock rule, they adjusted!

Goal: Regular bedtimes and time off for you

You can’t just announce a rule to your husband and kids that says, “Bedtime has to go really smoothly so I can get a break at the end of the day.” It won’t happen. But if you flip the problem and make a rule about you instead of telling everyone what they have to do, it all falls neatly  — and miraculously  — into place.

When this occurred to me, back when my oldest was 6 and my youngest was nearly 2, I announced to Anna and Taylor that the U.S. Department of Labor had just created a new rule and I was no longer allowed to do any kind of mom jobs past 8:00 in the evening. I would gladly read books, play games, listen to stories of everyone’s day, give baths  — the whole mother package  — before then. Then I held firm  — I acted as if it were out of my hands. Sort of like Cinderella and midnight.

Suddenly, my 6-year-old (and my husband) developed a new consciousness of time. My daughter actually rushed to get ready for bed just after dinner so that we could have lots of books and time together before I was “off.” My husband, realizing that if things dragged past 8:00 he’d have to face putting both girls to sleep himself, became more helpful. Anna’s now 11, and my hours have been extended, but the idea that I’m not endlessly available has been preserved and integrated into our family routine.

Why it works: You’re not telling anyone else what to do. The rule is for you, so you have only yourself to blame if it’s not enforced.

3. Make the rule objective. Anytime you can blame the child’s disappointment on “the rule” rather than mean ol’ mom, the better. The example in this article is that she never argues over money. So, when the moment arises when the kids want to argue over getting a new toy, then she can remove the personal aspect and claim it’s the outside rule that prevents her from arguing.

It cuts both ways, though: When your kids want to spend their “own” money, point out potential mistakes and give advice on the purchase if you’d like, but at the end of the day, don’t overrule them unless it’s a matter of health or safety. After all, you don’t argue about money. They may make some bad choices, but they’ll learn. And you’ll all enjoy shopping together a lot more.

Why it works: It shifts the focus from the whined-for treat to financial policy. You’re almost changing the topic on them, no longer debating why they should or shouldn’t have gum or some plastic plaything and, instead, invoking a reasonable-sounding family value.

I love it when parents spread wisdom and experience with the rest of us. Honestly, the education I get from other moms and dads is so much more valuable than books written by psychologists (shh don’t tell my psych friends).

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Boys Need Men, and Other Lessons I Learned From the Elephants!

Years ago, my dad shared this CNN story with me, South Africa Reins In Its Young Elephants. I found it such a fascinating story and wonderful analogy for our young men today, that I continue to reference it all these years later. Please read the story for yourself, but I can share a summary.

The Story of the Elephants

The CNN story, written by Dean E. Murphy in 1998, is about a group of wild elephant bulls on a game reserve in South Africa. The elephant bulls, considered teenagers in elephant years, were being extremely aggressive. The elephant bulls were terrorizing the reserve by killing rhinos and chasing off safari visitors. One man even lost his life to one of the aggressive, young elephants. I can just imagine the chaos!

Reserve officials were perplexed by the strange behavior of the elephants and began contemplating the reasons for this behavior and possible solutions. You see, these elephants were orphaned at a young age and relocated to this reserve. It turns out, there were no older elephant males on the reservation. Officials determined that the male elephants had no role model for appropriate behavior.

The park finally introduced a handful of elder elephants to the area. At the time the story was written, the unruly behaviors of the elephant bulls had already decreased significantly. Wow, even the animals learn from their elders!

The Lessons:

Children Need Positive Role Models. I’m not the first person to tell you how much it means that you model good behavior for your children, boys and girls! They watch our every move and listen to our every word!

More Boys Need Men In Their Lives. I see more and more young boys in my therapy office without this male figure in their life. These boys yearn for their father and appear to be seeking guidance from anywhere they can. Moms serve a precious and irreplacable role in their lives, but they can’t serve as the male figure. William Bennett, a blogger with CNN Opinion, wrote in his article Why Men Are In Trouble, “For boys to become men, they need to be guided through advice, habit, instruction, example and correction. It is true in all ages.”

We Can Learn From Our Elders. I think today we really do not place enough value on learning form our elders. Whether we are young or middle-aged, our elders can teach us a lot about life. When I was pregnant with my first child, I read many books, hoping to be prepared for this new chapter in my life. When my baby finally arrived, I found the most valuable lessons came from my mother, my aunt, my grandmother, and my friends. Their experience taught me more than any book I read! Our younger generations are facing life today with the same mentality… learn what you need to from the internet. Unfortunately, there is so much more we can teach them. But first, we have to teach them to value the lessons what we have to offer.

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Self-Identity After Kids

FreeDigitalPhotos.netNot everyone calls me mom. In fact, most people don’t call me mom, but it’s the role I allow to consume most of my time and energy. Why is that?

Mom Is My Most Important Role

The simple answer to that question is that I consider being a mother the most important role of my life. Since becoming Mom, I spend quite a bit of time reading about parenting and baby topics, shopping for baby items, and sharing pictures and stories of my kids with others. I now get excited if there is a family event in my neighborhood, like the annual “Snow Day with Santa,” instead of the hottest downtown event, and plan play dates insteads of shopping dates with my girlfriends. I even blog about topics related to child psychology and parenthood, even though I could easily write about relationships and work issues. I do all these things because I truly love being mom to my two beautiful babies and wouldn’t change it for anything. However…

I Have Other Roles and Interests

Even though I now have this new role, I haven’t lost the titles from my “previous life.” I am still a wife, daughter, friend, colleague, neighbor, and therapist. Despite my extensive deficit of time and energy these days, my relationships continue to be important to me and I want to nourish them as much as possible.

I also have other interests outside of my kids, such as exercise, scrapbooking (although now I scrapbook baby pictures instead of vacations), and various home projects. These interests are part of who I am. Even though I am now a mom, does that mean I have to give these up? I feels like it sometimes, but no.

Maintaining Your Self-Identity After Kids

Holding on to those relationships and interests can be difficult when our obligations and priorities change, but it’s possible.

  1. Foster your interests and hobbies. Even if you spend one hour a month (which is very little time) on your hobby, it can make a diffierence. Connect with others who are also involved in that hobby, whether it be at a coffee shop or online forums. If you have a magazine membership for your interest, continue to receive it and make time to at least flip through the articles.
  2. Take time for yourself. This can be part of fostering our intersts, but it also involves other activities. Get a bubble bath or sneak away to the rocking chair on your front porch for a few minutes. You can even run an errand alone if you just miss that kind of independence.
  3. Make time for your significant other. To me, this is one of the most important things we can do. I hope everyone reading this grasps the importance of having a healthy relationship with your husband or wife. Other than meeting your own needs for companionship and intamacy, think about what kind of relationship you want to model for your kids. What kind of marriage do you want your son or daughter to have when they are grown? Also, think about the fact that once the kids are grown and moved out, it will just be you and your spouse. You don’t want to look up in 18 years and wonder who that person is across from you at dinner. Make sure you are spending time on your relationship with one another away from being co-parents.
  4. Develop new interests and relationships. If you suddenly feel like you don’t have anything that is “yours,” go out and discover new things for yourself. Maybe you have discovered that you are really good at snapping photographs… go out and learn more about this. Do it for you!

The “New” Me

Now that I have written about maintaining our self-identity after kids, I’ll now point out that the bottom line is that we do change after having kids. You will never be the same person you were before kids. Priorities shift dramatically, and in some cases, so do values. There are many milestones in our lives that lead us to alter our identity is some way, such as marriage or a professional title, and becoming a parent is no different.

I’ve actually heard many parents say they are better people for having kids. There is so much responsibility with children that we strive to improve ourselves. We are forced to evaluate our beliefs, values and behaviors. I want my kids to grow up in a safe and loving world, so it’s important for me to surround myself and my family with others who support that dream.

Discovering and accepting our “post-children identity” is a process. You mean we didn’t complete self-discovery in high school? Definitely not. As long as your life continues to evolve and change, so will your self-concept and sense of identity. Consider your self-discover a journey. Continue to learn new things about yourself and accept those things you have not accepted in the past.

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Parenting: What Makes It All Worth While For You?

As I get ready to welcome our second child into this world… let me start over. I’m READY to have this baby already! My legs hurt, my stomach feels stretched to the limit, I’m swollen, and I can’t sleep, sit, eat, walk, or bend over comfortably. And this is my second time around! As I waddle through my house cleaning up after our “toddler tornado” made landing this evening, I couldn’t help but ask myself why people choose to be parents. What makes all this sacrifice worth it? Then, all I have to do is think of my son’s face and I’m immediately filled with this warm, fulfilled, perfectly-in-love feeling and my question is answered.

Let’s face it though. Parenting is hard. It’s got to be the hardest thing I have ever done. And yet, people CHOOSE to be parents all the time.

If someone were to ask you today: “Would you rather have a lot of free time, extra money for vacations, use your personal days at work for your self, have all the time you want with the person you love, and go out for social events guilt-free whenever you want… OR none of the above? There would have to be a phenomenal reason for giving all that up right?

So, what is that reason for you?

For me, it’s those small moments when I see my child master a new skill, or run into my arms as if I’m the greatest person in the world. It’s getting to be close to him and feel his face and hands as he falls asleep. It’s just the mere thought that he is the most special gift I could ever receive.

As a parent, these moments are mixed in with crazy dinner time, never hearing a word of the news, and attempting conversations with my husband, all while clapping for my child’s latest trick. But the point is the moments are there. If I were ever given an opportunity to have all that great stuff I mentioned above in exchange for never having kids, I would say “Not in a million years!” I would choose the sacrifice any day!

Is There A “Right” Way To Parent?

A mother once told me how she was upset with herself for not using a parenting style discussed in a book she was currently reading. This is someone I highly respect- adoptive parent, thoughtful, caring, and highly involved in her son’s therapy. I was surprised to hear how quick she put herself down because of this author’s idea of the “right way” to parent. Thinking about how you may have done things differently is one thing, but beating yourself up over it is another!

There are definitely some wonderful approaches to parenting out there… Positive Parenting, Love and Logic, Attachment Parenting, etc. but I don’t believe there is ONE RIGHT way to parent that works for everybody. There is not one right way to potty train. There is not one right way for your baby to sleep. There is not one right decision to make on whether to let your child have diluted juice or not. In reality, if one parenting book tells you to do one thing, I guarentee there is another book out there that will have a variation, or even a contradiction. So, please, don’t be so hard on yourself! And don’t be so hard on your fellow mommies out there!

Are there some general guidelines out there? Are there general standards, for moral and health reasons, that all parents should follow? Absolutely! Some are even recommended by the American Pediatric Association. These are not what I am referring to now. What I am talking about are the “styles” and “techniques” that are offered to us each and every day as parents and all the little things that we criticize ourselves and others so much for.

Every child, every parent, every family, and every circumstance is different. We all have values, priorities, obligations, and a bunch of other “stuff” that affects how we choose to raise our children. Read all the books, magazines, and blogs you want, but at the end of the day, you have to make a decision to do what fits best with your child.

No matter the age of your kids, when you have a choice to make, gather all the information you can, reflect on your own goals and values, and make the best decision you know how with the information you have available. If you learn later of a better way you could have handled that stage of your child’s life, or that a certain food is not so good after all, you can rest assured that you did the best you knew how at that time.

As a therapist, it’s important to me that parents of my child and adolescent clients feel a sense of confidence in themself and their abilities. Judgment from me, other parents, or family members is not helpful.

In summary, there are several parenting philosophies that I think are fantastic. I tend to pull a little bit from each and apply what works with my own philosophy and values. So, is there a right way to parent? There is for me! But it may be different for you! What do you think?

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Sibling Rivalry: Treating Kids Fairly Versus Equally

We’ve all been there. A couple of screaming kids (usually siblings) race to your feet and you find yourself playing referee to the latest argument. What is your typical reaction? You may have never considered how your response in these moments will impact the kids, but there are actually varying viewpoints on the best way to handle sibling rivalry.

Before sharing these viewpoints, I will tell you that my approach to this is the same way I approach techniques in counseling, parenting, and life in general. I take the information available and apply what works with my own experiences and circumstances. It’s all about balance and personal judgment for me.

Treating Kids Equally Versus Fairly

I enjoyed this post by Positive Discipline titled “Put Kids in the Same Boat.” The main idea is that you should not take sides when kids fight because you probably do not know all the details of what happened. The author warns against creating a bully and victim mentality in the children.

Right is always a matter of opinion. What seems right to you will surely seem unfair from at least one child’s point of view. If you feel you must get involved to stop fights, don’t become judge, jury, and executioner. Instead, put them in the same boat and treat them the same. Instead of focusing on one child as the instigator, say something like, “Kids, which one of you would like to put this problem on the agenda,” or, “Kids, do you need to go to yourf eel good places for a while, or can you find a solution now?” or, “Kids, do you want to go to separate rooms until you can find a solution, or to the same room.”

The point is not who did what. The point is that you treat both children the same so one doesn’t learn victim mentality and the other doesn’t learn bully mentality. Surely, the baby won’t be traumatized by being put into her crib for few seconds. Another way to put children in the same boat is to give them both the same choice. “Would you both like to sit on my lap until you are ready to stop fighting?” Do or say whatever is comfortable for you—so long as they are treated the same.

An article on the MainStreetMom website titled Don’t Treat Your Children Equally! Treat Them Fairly by Ron Huxley, LMFT, takes the position that treating kids equally is impossible and can even be harmful.

Sibling rivalry often occurs because parents mistakenly believe that everyone must be treated equally. The reality is that parents cannot treat everyone equally. But they can treat everyone fairly. Fairness implies giving favors in an impartial and consistent manner.  Equality, on the other hand, implies giving favors in an exact or identical manner. Very rarely can a parent give all of their children love or attention in an equal manner.

A fair family treats every one according to their individual needs and considers everyone as worthy of love and respect. Attempting to treat everyone the same actually back fires on parents, as children are not the same in body or spirit.  Ironically, treating them the same would be treating them unequally! Treat your child according to their age, maturity, temperament, and the situation you find yourself in. Be fair to yourself and your child by attempting the only realistic solution: fairness.

Allowing the Children to Solve Their Own Disagreement

I also want to bring up another significant approach to sibling rivalry, which is to allow the children an opportunity to work out their differences and disagreements. Hands down, this will always be my first approach. If I knew what parenting philosopher first recorded this technique, I would credit them here. Encouraging the kids to try to work things out on their own teaches them problem solving and social skills, as well as builds confidence. Be sure to use your judgment on the type of problem they are having, the age and developmental levels of the kids, and whether consequences should be dealt. You may determine that discipline for one or both children is appropriate, or that treating them equally is the best approach.

A recent post by Teacher Tom titled “You Both Want This Toy” is a great illustration of how this theory works in real life. He describes how his toddlers wanted the same toy and he used the moment, even with children so young, to give them an opportunity to develop some valuable social and problem solving skills. Great read!

If this post does anything, I hope it brings awareness about the various ways you can decide to address sibling rivlary, or rivalry between friends, cousins… you’ve got the idea. You don’t have to always punish or always solve the problem. However, keep in mind that how you choose to respond will send a message and create a learning opportunity for those kids.

If you have another approach or resource on this topic, please pass it along. With a second baby on the way, I am getting ready for a short life time of sibling rivalry! Just being a therapist does not mean I can’t learn from all you other moms and dads out there!