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					            1                        Gigi Schweikert
                                            June 2008

Siblings, Best Friends and
     Worst Enemies:
 What Can a Parent Do?

     Gigi Schweikert
                                 90 Mine Road
                High Bridge, New Jersey 08829
                              908.638.6944 fax
                                                 2                                 Gigi Schweikert
                                                                                          June 2008

                                                        Gigi Schweikert
                                                      Author and Speaker
                                “Inspirational, encouraging and real,” that’s what audiences and
                                readers across the country say have to say about Gigi Schweikert.
                                Known for her humor and practical messages, Gigi is a popular
                                speaker for early childhood conferences, corporations, women’s
                                events, and parenting seminars. Gigi is a national expert on early
                                childhood education, child care, and workplace supervision and

                                 Gigi’s latest book is, Prime Times: A Handbook for Excellence in
                                 Infant and Toddlers Programs, written with Jim Greenman and
                                 Anne Stonehouse. She also has several books on parenting
                                 including There’s a Perfect Angel in Every Child: Discipline Tips
                                 That Work and I’m a Good Mother, for the not-so-perfect Mom.
She contributes to periodicals and journals including The Church Herald, Children and Families,
eFamily News, Northwest Baby & Child, Cricket Magazine and Child Care Information Exchange.

As a busy mom, Gigi admits that she’s served orange soda to her family for breakfast trying to pass
it off as orange juice. Oh, well! Besides making breakfast, Gigi directed the United Nations Early
Childhood Program in New York City and developed the Johnson & Johnson System of Family
Centers. Her other clients include Prudential, Community Bible Study International, Bank of
America, Merck, IBM, Genentech and SC Johnson Wax.

Gigi also hosted the television show, “Today’s Family.” She’s a frequent radio and television guest
appearing on Real Life, Newsmakers, and Cross Talk.

When Gigi’s not in front of the computer writing, she’s behind the wheel of a mini-van carting
around her four kids. Although originally from North Carolina, Gigi lives in New Jersey with her
husband, four children, three dogs, many chickens, and one turtle.

Contact Gigi at:
                                3                       Gigi Schweikert
                                                               June 2008

Bickering among siblings is high on the list of what sends us
normally tolerant parents right over the edge. If they would
just stop fighting! For those of us with brothers and sisters,
how easily it is to forget that we, too, used to fight over whom
Mom loved best, who got to push the elevator button and the
unforgivable action of, “She looked at me.”

                    Why do siblings fight?

Children fight for many reasons:

     Control over personal space and belongings
     Lack of social experience
     Need for attention
     Out of boredom
     Just for fun

Remember: It’s annoying, but normal.

             How do we minimize the conflicts?

We can begin by helping our children, and ourselves:

     Manage anger appropriately.
     Focus on cooperation instead of competition.
     Value the uniqueness of each child and family member.
     Realize that “fair is not always equal.”
     Relax, don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t always jump
      into the middle.
                                          4                             Gigi Schweikert
                                                                               June 2008
     How can parents deal with sibling squabbles?

Parents can equip their children with the skills and
attitudes needed for a fulfilling relationship by:

Teaching Supportive Communication
Help children work out their differences by listening to them and identifying
their feelings. When a fight starts, children might feel many emotions like
anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, jealousy or disappointment. Begin
by acknowledging your children's feelings toward each other e.g. "You both
sound really angry at each other." Listen to each child's side without making
judgments of who is right or wrong. Recognize the difficulty of the situation
and express faith in their ability to work things out.

Focus on Each Child's Talents
Each child is a special and unique person. Children also need to know that
the contributions they make to the family are valued. By focusing on the
positive talents each child possesses, parents can build the child's
confidence and this can lead to stronger family relationships.

Avoid Comparing Children
Children who are compared will often feel resentful and angry both toward
you and their sibling.
Avoid using statements such as:
"Why can't you be more like______?" (sister or brother's name)
"He never makes those mistakes, why do you?"
"Let _______ help you, he does that so well."
"__________ never had these problems, why do you?"
Statements like these can make children feel unloved. They might also feel
that they have failed you. Tell your child directly what you want or expect of
her without comparing her to her brother. For example, "I want you to finish
your chores before going out to play."

Use Positive Reinforcement
Parents are role models for their children. If parents want their children to
be loving towards one another, then they must praise that behavior when it
happens e.g. "You guys worked as a team, you picked up all the toys
before the timer finished." When you praise positive interactions, the
likelihood of the behavior reoccurring is greater.
                                           5                              Gigi Schweikert
                                                                                 June 2008
Here are a few more practical ideas that may help:

“Chore equals Privilege”
If your children regularly fight over who has to sit in the back of the van or
who gets to decide what the family movie will be, tie the choice to a chore
that rotates among them. For example, whoever has to do the dishes for
the week gets to pick the movie. It takes any hint of favoritism out of the
equation and, because kids understand the parameters, they often
cooperate willingly.
”Kid of the Day”
Assign each child days of the week - Jimmy is Monday, Wednesday and
Friday, Susie is Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On their day, they get to
make all important kid decisions, from what kind of ice cream you buy at the
grocery store to what bedtime story you read. Make Sunday "parents'
choice" day.
The "No Sharing" Box
Let your children choose a few things that they don't have to share if they
don't want to. Let them decorate a shoebox or a plastic container to reflect
that the items stored within are special. Make sure everyone in the
household, babysitters, visiting friends and relatives understand that the
child doesn't have to share the things in the box. Set up consequences for
siblings who trespass.
Assign your kids to jobs and games where they have to work together.
Forcing the issue of cooperation helps them to experience the unique gifts
of their siblings, as well as build an understanding of how much they can
accomplish by working together toward a common goal.
Rule book
Establish a "family fighting rule book" that contains specific constraints (no
hitting, no yelling, no name calling, no hair pulling, etc.). Include
consequences for breaking these rules.
Ignore Simple Arguments
Do what you can to let your kids work it out on their own. Working at
resolving their own battles can teach them valuable life skills, so walk away
and ignore it if you can. Intervene only when the fight gets out of control.
Think Switzerland
It's important that you remain neutral. As tempting as it is to assign blame to
the older sibling, "He should know better", talk to them both calmly without
assuming either is in the wrong.
                                          6                              Gigi Schweikert
                                                                                June 2008
And Baby makes Two, Kids that Is

Imagine how you would feel if your spouse brought home a new wife or husband
with the explanation, “I love you so much. You have made such a positive
difference in my life that I wanted another one like you.” That’s kind of how first
children can feel with the arrival of a new sibling.

Even parents, longing for another child, often wonder how could we ever love
another child as much as we love the first one? But we do. It’s adding the third
child that requires the most parental adjustment since mom and dad must move
from man-to-man defense to zone, because the children now outnumber them.

Siblings may enjoy the excitement about a new baby, but can feel uncertain,
confused and even anger about all the “fuss.” It’s a big change to give up the
coveted baby spot. Here’re a few ways to help your child feel involved in the
    Talk to Your Child - Tell your child about the pregnancy and the new baby.
       You don’t want your child to overhear the news from someone else.
    Include Your Child In the Pregnancy - Include your child in the
       pregnancy, listening to the heartbeat or seeing an ultrasound, will make the
       experience more real.
    Focus on Your Child - Talk about the new baby, but phrase your
       comments to focus on your child. “You’re going to be a big brother when the
       baby comes.” “You can hand me the diapers when the baby arrives.”
    Don’t Blame the New Baby -Attribute your physical limitations to your
       body and not the new baby. “Mommy can sit on the floor and play with you,
       but I can’t pick you up because my back hurts,” instead of “I can’t pick you
       up because of the baby.”
    Try to Avoid other Big Changes -Make developmental changes regarding
       your child before the baby comes. If you need the crib for the new baby,
       move your toddler to a big boy bed because he’s a big boy and not because
       the baby needs it.

Adjusting to the New Baby
The excitement and adjustment of a new baby in the house may naturally cause
an older sibling to feel left out, abandoned, and less special. Many children may be
jealous or tire of all the commotion and demands to “be quiet” when the baby is
asleep. After a few weeks of having her new baby home, one mommy was
enjoying rocking the infant when her preschooler asked matter-of-factly, “When is
that baby going back to the hospital?”

What is sibling rivalry? All children want the love and attention of their parents and
when a new child arrives, mom and dad must divide their attention out of
necessity. It’s important to remember that your child’s feelings of jealousy and
illogical fears of abandonment can exist simultaneously with feelings of love and
                                          7                              Gigi Schweikert
                                                                                June 2008
pleasure about the new baby. Much to the dismay of us parents, this sibling
love/hate relationship usually continues throughout their adult lives. Siblings seem
to have this understanding that they will adamantly protect each other from the
real world, but all’s fair at home, including name-calling and pulling hair. So how
do you minimize these feelings of conflict?
     Remember your own experiences and feelings as a sibling. If you were an
       only child, remember that sibling differences are natural.
     Show your child pictures of his own “babyhood” to illustrate the love and
       attention you gave him when he was an infant. Tell him stories about all the
       baby things he did.
     Every child is different. It’s actually amazing that two children born of the
       same parents could be so different without having been switched at birth.
       Try to understand rather than compare and judge.
     Make special dates with your child and try to keep his schedule as
       consistent as possible.
     Integrate your child in the care routine of the infant. Make one of the baby’s
       daytime naps a special time to spend with your other child. During at least
       two feedings a day, have your child join you to read a book or go over
     Ask close friends and family to bring a small gift to the sibling or take he out
       for a special treat and time alone for you.

The only way to completely avoid sibling rivalry is to have just one child and
for many of us, it may be too late for that.

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