Q: My kids don’t fight physically, but they are perfectly awful to one another with their words. Their age difference is such that one is far more capable than the other. By ignoring their behavior, as is often recommended when dealing with siblings, I’m afraid it suggests that I don’t mind them treating each other that way or that I’m condoning their behavior. What do you recommend?
A: When there is a big vocabulary difference because of an age gap, try spending a little extra time with the child who is less equipped. Taking that child aside and getting their take on the situation helps that child come up with some options that probably aren’t obvious to them.
When someone starts physically hurting you or verbally attacking you, it’s easy to feel like a deer in the headlights. The primitive part of the brain takes over and we resort to fight, flight or freeze without realizing that there are options.
Having a chat with that child at another time, you might ask, “When your brother is saying nasty things to you, what else could you do?” You might offer, “Have you ever thought about the fact that you could get up and run away or you could do something totally silly and unexpected and surprise your big brother or sister?”
By doing so, you’re offering options and expressing faith in the child. Once the child has these options, you’ll feel more comfortable with staying out of their verbal squabbles and seeing how it plays out.
This Wednesday night, April 10th at 9 pm ET we’ll be online talking about Defusing Sibling Rivalry. For answers to your questions about sibling squabbles, join us. Our webinars run approximately 45 minutes and then we dedicate the remainder of the time answering your questions. Register now!