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Sibling Rivalry

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Finding a Good Family Balance

The screaming might be driving you nuts, but avoid getting in the middle of an argument unless a child is in danger of getting hurt. Try to let your kids resolve their own issues. Stepping in won't teach your kids how to handle conflict, and it could make it seem as though you're favoring one child over another -- especially if you're always punishing the same child.

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.

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