A blog for parents with young children

Siblings: Is Your Discipline Fair Between Siblings?

Do you have different rules or expectations of one child than the other? 

Sometimes parents are inclined to have different rules and expectations for one child than the other. Usually, the good one or the older one has stricter rules, or we react more to the good one when they misbehave because it is out of character. We get used to them being “good” and that is easier for us!

When we are inconsistent with our discipline and expectations between siblings it can cause sibling conflict. If your older or “good” child is good most of the time and acts out in some moments toward their sibling, that is an indicator that there is a power dynamic between them.

Here are 3 distinctions you can make to make sure that you are being fair and eliminating the power dynamic

  1. Identify the need behind the misbehaviour

If your good/older child is acting out (hitting, teasing, pushing), look to see where their needs are being submitted elsewhere. Where are they having to give in? Look where they are expected to behave in a certain way or compensate for their sibling and work with them there. Talk to them to show them how to separate their actions from their sibling. They are acting that way because it feels good, because that is the right thing to do, not because of their sibling. When you disassociate this from their sibling it removes the power dynamic. In the acting out moments you can ask them what they are really needing. They may not know but asking them gets them thinking about it and builds their awareness. Practice not making them wrong, rather teach them to understand the need behind their behaviour and meet it more effectively.

  1. Be consistent with your response

Start to notice if you react more to one sibling than the other. Get clear on what your boundaries are and enforce them equally with your children, even if there is more conflict with one child than the other. It is better for both children to brave the conflict and be consistent. It develops accountability with the one that acts out more and it prevents the other one from acting out in other areas to balance the power dynamic. Sometimes the quiet/good one will avoid the conflict and be even better behaved but somewhere the power will have to balance out. We don’t have to have the same consequences to situations, because each child is different, we just need to be consistent in our reactions!

  1. Avoid giving your child labels or “roles” to play

Sometimes the older or good child gets to take responsibility for the younger one to help the parents. This can also cause a power dynamic between them. They feel significant and important, and it feels good, so they start to assert authority in other places like bossing their brother or sister or even pushing or hitting. It is our responsibility to teach them the distinctions of responsibility. It is best to frame it as please can you help mom here in this moment, rather than you are the older one and it is your role to support. The distinction is subtle, but it makes a big difference. When one child is given authority over the other, the other child can act out in places because they are feeling disempowered. Avoiding responsibility in relation to each other and rather just asking them to help in the moment can avoid this power dynamic.

Look out for my Creating Awesome Sibling Relationships Online Training coming soon!

In closing

Use these tips and others I provide in my blogs.  I am here to support you through your entire parent journey

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About the Author

Gail is a Family Relationship Coach specialising in Parent-Child Relationships. She is passionate about empowering and inspiring parents to develop children’s self-awareness. She believes that this can be achieved by balancing parent’s needs with children’s development and happiness. Understanding how to synchronise our thoughts and emotions and what drives them ensures our happiness, and our children reaching their full potential. Gail is a Qualified NLP Practitioner, NLP Life Coach and Emotional Freedom Techniques Practitioner with over 10 years’ experience and success at applying these techniques to children’s learning and behaviour. Her success with her own son is proof of the possibility of true potential

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