“Let’s read a book!” Your suggestion is met with two voices raised in agreement. “Yes!” You’re so glad that they enjoy reading. You daydream 14 years into the future about their stellar verbal SAT scores. Good job mom. Then something disturbs your reverie. A squabble. They’re fighting over which book to read. You rise, break it up and suggest a compromise. Then they each want to sit in your lap. Next they offer a chorus of, “It’s my turn to turn the pages!” So this reading has turned into a competition and your two kids are irking each other and you. Argh. Is this just how it is or can you change it?

Kids seek the attention of their parents and often vie with siblings for the attention that’s available. This can set them up to be somehow opposed to each other.

Since parents are the attention givers and the experts on so many questions (i.e. Where are my shoes?! When will dinner by ready? What does narcissist mean?), kids seek them out for learning information and of course telling on a sibling. When parents continue to be the hub of the wheel of family communication, relaying messages to other siblings or stepping in to sibling disputes, then children are going to continue to feel that their regular path of communication is to their mom or dad and not their siblings directly. This pattern certainly doesn’t help them work together, solve problems or go to each other for help.

Parents can help to lessen competition and encourage collaboration by stepping out of conflicts that don’t require them and redirecting communication to siblings rather than mom or dad. Besides teaching kids individual responsibility, it also teaches them that their siblings are not just lap hoggers and attention getters, they can also be helpful and useful.

I am friends with and care for 3 young-ish children (the oldest one just turn 6). They all go to bed at the same time & are generally in the bath together two at a time before bed. It’s hard for me to make sure that everybody is calm and getting clean/into their pajamas. I can’t do it by myself. That’s why I need the help of the kids. “You have some food on your face. Yep, keep wiping. I have to go check on your sister. Maybe your brother could help you get your face clean.” Helping a younger sibling + asking an older sibling for help! Huzzah! I wasn’t watching when his face got clean. I just know that it was when I looked back.

“When are we going?”
 “Did you ask your sister? She might know.”
“Where is my library book?”
“Hmm…who else might know?”

And just like that, siblings are talking to each other & maybe even helping one another. Yes!

Katie Robinson began her foray into behavior management long before she knew what it was called. Growing up with a younger brother with special behavioral and emotional needs was her first taste of the hard work that it takes to be successful at managing behaviors. A career that spans teaching middle school special needs students and social work, Katie’s diverse experiences have led her to her newest venture: BW Kids Consulting. BW Kids Consulting affords Katie a ‘Supernanny’ style adventure of working with parents to help them help their kids to be their best selves. Check out her blog, Kid Whisperer!