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Sibling Rivalry

(continued)

Finding a Good Family Balance continued...

Some disagreements are easier than others for kids to end on their own. Here are some tips for resolving the conflict when sibling fighting escalates to the point where you can no longer stay out of it:

Separate. Take your kids out of the ring and let them cool down in their own corners -- their rooms. Sometimes, all kids need is a little space and time away from each other.

Teach negotiation and compromise. Show your kids how to resolve disputes in a way that satisfies both siblings involved. First, ask them to stop yelling and start communicating. Give each child a chance to voice his or her side of the story. Listen, and don't be judgmental. Try to clarify the problem ("It sounds like you're really upset with David for taking your favorite video game"), and ask your kids to find a solution that works for everyone involved. If they can't come up with any ideas for resolving the issue, you introduce a solution. For instance, if the kids are fighting over a new game, propose that you write up a schedule that gives each child a set amount of time to play with the game.

Enforce rules. Make sure all of your kids abide by the same rules, which should include no hitting, name-calling, or damaging each other's property. Let your kids have a say in how the rules are established and enforced. They may decide that the punishment for hitting is losing their TV privileges for one night. Letting your kids play a role in the decision-making process will make them feel like they have at least a little bit of control over their own lives. When your kids follow the rules, praise them for it.

Don't play favorites. Even if one of your kids is constantly getting into trouble and the other is an angel, don't take sides or compare your kids (for example, "Why can't you be more like your sister?"). It will only make your kids resent each other more. Giving one child preferential treatment can also hurt the relationships between you and your children.

Don't make everything equal. There is no such thing as perfect equality in a family. An older child will inevitably be allowed to do some things her younger siblings can't. Instead of trying to make your kids equals, treat each child as a unique and special individual.

Give kids the rights to their own possessions. Sharing is important, but children shouldn't be forced to share everything. All of your children should have something special that is completely their own.

Hold family meetings. Get together with the entire family once a week to hash out any issues. Give every family member a chance to air his or her grievances, and then come up with solutions together.

Give each child separate attention. It can be hard to spend time alone with each child, especially when you have a large family. But one of the reasons siblings resent each other is that they feel they aren't getting enough of your attention. To let your kids know that you value every one of them, make one-on-one time for each child. Carve out special days when you take your daughter shopping or your son to the movies -- just the two of you. Even 10 to 15 minutes of your attention each day can make your child feel special.

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