Dealing with Sibling Rivalry

You want your children to have a great relationship- which is sometimes hard to imagine when sibling rivalry gets in the way. Is bickering and fighting amongst siblings inevitable? How can it change as your children progress through various developmental stages? Plus, as a parent, how do you when it’s time to intervene, and when you should let your kids handle the situation on their own?

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Parent Savers
Dealing with Sibling Rivalry
Episode 69, August 28th, 2013

Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.


[Theme Music]

All parents dream of their children will feel closer to one another. But it is common for brothers and sisters to fight and bickerers kids. Often sibling rivalry starts even before the second child is born and continues as kids grow and compete for everything from toys to attention and as they transition from one developmental stage to another. How can parents know when to get involved and what are steps you can take to promote peace and help your kids survive their sibling rivalry? I am Dr. Deb Pontillo and this is Parent Savers, episode 69.

[Theme Music/Intro]

Johner Riehl: Welcome back everyone to Parent Savers, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. Parent Savers is your weekly online on the go support group for parents of new born, infants and toddlers. I am your host Johner Riehl, I have also got producer Erin here in studio.

Erin Esteves (producer): Hello, hello!

Johner Riehl: And she is manning the face book and twitter feeds. We tape one Saturday a month and we love to get your live participation when we do tapes. How can folks participate Erin?

Erin Esteves (producer): Well first of all you can check out our face book page, Parent Savers and also you can look for us on the twitter, you can follow me at “ogmamacita” or you can follow as at “#parentsaversvp” and I will be posting questions and asking for comments and responses for our podcast.

Johner Riehl: Nice! We love how this is building in our last episode we had a listener question and hopefully will see if we can get a cover for this one as well and definitely moving forward for our future tapings, follow those pages and you can participate in the conversation.

Sunny is also in studio with us and I am only introducing her prior later because we are talking about sibling rivalry and she has some sibling and for what I have heard from talking to her they are rivals sometimes. So she may be participating as well. Thanks so much to all of you guys for listening, especially those loyal listeners who joined the Parent Savers Club. Our members get all our archive deposit, bonus content after each new show, a special give away and discounts and more. You can also subscribe to your monthly Parent Savers news letter for a chance to win a membership to our club each month. The newsletter itself is free, it keeps you up to date on what we are doing and another way for you to stay connected is by downloading our free Parent Savers app available on the Android and iTunes market place. Alright let’s go around, we have got a lot of folks in the room talking about this topic and I think a lot of you guys may be interested in this as well. So let’s talk about who we are? Who is at the table? How our kids are? And maybe if we think there are sibling rivals. So Laurie, you want to go first?

Laurie Babb: I guide people in yoga, meditation and consciousness development and I am 41 and I have two boys two and a half and five and a half and they definitely exhibit rivalry.

Cecille Neri: I am a full time stay at home mom to three kids. I have a seven year-old daughter, a six year-old daughter and a three and a half year-old son and there is definite rivalry going on in my household.

Johner Riehl: This is Johner we have a six year -old boy, a four year-old boy and a two year-old boy. And yes, people always ask if they get along? “Oh, yes! They get along great except when they don’t”. That is sibling the rivalry part.

Erin Esteves (producer): I’m Erin Esteves! I’m the OG Mama Cita, officially a geriatric mom. I have one boy Cash, he’s could have be two this fall and I’m forty-three and I only have sibling rivalry amongst my own siblings.

Johner Riehl: Nice! Yes, Sunny go ahead.

Sunny Gault: Hello everyone my name I’m Sunny. I am the host and producer of Parent Savers, sister’s show, Preggie Pals. I am pregnant myself. Definitely not my first pregnancy, I have two little boys at home Sayer who is three, Urban who is fifteen months and I am pregnant with identical twin girls.

Johner Riehl: I guess sibling rivalry in your tummy.

Sunny Gault: My God maybe. You know what’s funny, is they can feel each other and I see them on the ultrasound kind of punching and kicking and I said Oh no please Lord.

Laurie Babb: At least they’re not like sharks where they have to eat each other where only one survives.

Sunny Gault: Let’s just hope not.

Johner Riehl: Right! Dr. Pontillo!

Dr. Debra Pontillo: Hi. I’m Dr. Debra Pontillo. I’m a child psychologist in San Diego, California. I’m from and I’m a mother of two. I’ve got a six year-old daughter and a two year-old son and look I’m not saying anything unique in this room. They love each other and they hate each other. So, what are you going to do?

[Theme Music]

Johner Riehl: From time to time here on Parent Savers we review Apps that are used to parents and today we’re going to be looking at one call Artkive which is available on iTunes store for free Artkive. And what this App does is it provides a way for you to take snapshots of the art that you’re kid does and easily kind of file it together and also offers the way to share it. So once you kind of log on for the first time you go ahead and you enter your family information, your kid’s names. You can enter how old they are or what grade they’re in and then once you set them up, you can also setup the email addresses for who you might like to be sharing with and then after that you can either take stuff that you already taken pictures of or go right through the App and take pictures of the art and the cool thing that it does is it makes it easy you know quickly with a few button pushes and send information and say, “Okay, this is my oldest kids. He did in July of 2013 and here’s a little note about it if I want to write note about it.” And then what it does is after you categorize it, it will file for you so that if you take a bunch of these pictures you can easily access them by kid, by age, that type of stuff.

Laurie Babb: Is it stored on your phone or on a cloud or how does it work? Where does it go?
Johner Riehl: Its stores it the cloud for artkive but it also does store on your picture row as well.
Laurie Babb: So if you lose your camera it’s still on the cloud somewhere.
Johner Riehl: Yes! Exactly!
Laurie Babb: Okay!
Johner Riehl: So, it’s still keeping it. You know it’s one of those things where actually I started doing this a couple of years ago, taking pictures of all the art because you get it, and you feel guilty that like, you know my wife filling system was straight to the trash sometimes and I was like, I felt kind a guilty ‘cause they are so proud of it and then you want to take pictures of it, but we have so many pictures already. So now just mixed in with all this pictures that we have on our computer or hard drive where you keep this random pictures of the art too and the trick is, what do you do with them? So this App kind of help solve that problem.

Erin Esteves (producer): What I really like about the App is that you can print up a book…

Johner Riehl: Right!

Erin Esteves (producer): Because… okay… like frankly you know, first all you think, “Oh! I can do shutter fly, I can do all you know flickr, I can use all these things...” but really, honestly, I mean I started a book on Cash last year and never finished it. So...I liked this because it keeps it all condensed in one spot…

Johner Riehl: Right! It's sort of funny though that you have to... in order to make a book of our kids art, we feel like we have to take a picture of it, to put it on our phone, to then make a book about it... [Laughs]

Erin Esteves (producer): Well, because, you know...

Johner Riehl: It's the modern world!

Erin Esteves (producer): Yeah! The clutter we think, “Ah! This piece of paper! No! No more paper...

Johner Riehl: Plus, they are different sizes is still great whenever…

Erin Esteves (producer): Yeah! What we are going to do with it? How many boxes ... really...

Johner Riehl: So this App is pretty cool, it helps you do a lot of different things. It's not perfect; I think that the interface is a little bit clunky sometimes and as far as like, inputting things or sharing things... you can connect it to face book, you can easily print, you can take pictures from inside the App… I mean, overall, I think it is pretty useful and I think it solves a problem that many parent face.

Alright, so Artkive gets a thumps up from Parents Savers so check it out, we'll have a link on the page.

[Theme Music]

Johner Riehl: Today's topic on Parent Savers is Sibling Rivalry. We are talking with Dr. Debra Pontillo who is going to tell us about when it starts, how to deal with and more…? Thanks for joining us again Dr. Pontillo!

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Thank you for having me.

Johner Riehl: Yes! It is exactly a continuation of our previous episode when we were talking about preparing for another baby and so it’s kind of a natural... kind of thing that happens afterwards, and maybe even while still… while you are still expecting another kid is that sibling rivalry can start, so... you know... we’ve all kind of experienced it we said when we were going around... would you say that sibling rivalry is inevitable?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: I think is inevitable in the sense that in any human relationship, whether it is, you know, a mother and a child, siblings or husband and wife, you know... we all know that in human relationships we don't get along 100% of the time; this is part of... you know, everyone is going to have conflicts, everyone is going to have disagreements and that's part of just learning how to get along. So from that standpoint, yeah it’s inevitable. [Laughs]

Johner Riehl: Right! Yeah, you talk to almost any parent and like half the kids are having troubles getting along or you know... So when does it start though? What's the earliest you may be have seen it started or when can start?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Well I think the feeling of a child, you know, not having good feelings about a new sibling can start as early as knowing that there is another baby on the way, you know, there is a feeling of been threaten, there is a feeling of competition, you know the older of the child is, there can be anticipation of how the future might be for them. So that can start at a very early age and of course that looks very different than a six year-old and a eleven year-old you know arguing but it can start pretty early.

Johner Riehl: Right! And so from a young age how can it manifest itself?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Well I think you know as you probably all have seen is but if you have an eight or nine month-old and his or her mother goes and picks up another friends infant and curdles that infant, well how is the eight or nine month-old like that? “Not too well!” So there is already the realization that, that is my mommy and you know I am feeling threatened, and I am not feeling good. So that can start very, very young.

Johner Riehl: Right! And we get tear transom and things like that, so then how does it change? Let’s talk about from a developmental stand of point and we go start from the younger as it get a little bit older and as to how kids are dealing with it and even as they get into their early twin years and stuff.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Sure! Well I mean, I think you know the easiest way I think about it is the under two’s, it mean it is a very much of an emotional reaction…territorial reaction, kids under two have not yet learnt how to share and they are not developmentally ready to learn how to share and that is appropriate for them. So to have this other person, it is often a very self centered view point you know what is interfering with my needs, with my emotional needs, with my physical property, “that is my toy, leave it alone”. It is a very kind of nasusystic but developmentally appropriate way of looking at thing.

Johner Riehl: I think Dr. Kark calls him little caveman. “Mine…mine…they may be no mine” and that is how they are looking at things (Laugh)

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Right! So it is very much a self centered, you point that and that can continue you know to two – two and a half until the development of looking at things from other peoples viewpoints starts to take hold and then once that happens, they you have got the ability to begin to reason with another child…reason with your child about having another sibling. It doesn’t necessarily mean they want to see it from…in your perspective but they are able to and that is kind of you window in a little bed. But then again you know once you get into older kid, we are talking about four or five and six, you know it can be comparisons, they are very much into fairness and equality. So what is fair, what is not fair, I don’t have to, he has to, but she doesn’t and you have to start explaining to them you know ages mean different expectations and fair does not always mean equal and so that can look different than when a toddler becomes a new sibling.

Erin Esteves (producer): That is perfect because we got a tweet from Bobby at LaPass and he was wondering about how you teach sharing to a toddler, as far as sibling rivalry is going, he is saying that have issues with sharing?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Sharing is hard to teach under age two just because developmentally it requires a certain level of cognitive development and flexibility. Now it doesn’t mean you do it but it means you have to have your expectations a little bit different than when you are teaching a four year-old how to share. So for example you know you can create different boxes. You know be very concrete, this box is for your toy only that everything that in that boxes all yours. Anything in box number two is something that baby can touch and you can touch. When baby is touching it you need to wait your turn and when you are touching it baby waits baby’s turn. And then baby’s box is all for baby and toddler can understand that because they are very concrete and very visual.

Erin Esteves (producer): That’s good! I like that one! (Laugh)

Johner Riehl: One of the phrases our two year-old has picked up was “I had it pirst(first)”, because his brothers would be like “I had it first, I had it first” and we put a lot of pressure on them to like you know share with him. But he pretty quickly has learnt that if he has something and he is mad, he can crawl up and say “I had it pirst (first), I had it pirst (first).

Dr. Deb Pontillo: So you see how motivation can really get language development moving really quick. (Laugh)

Johner Riehl: Yeah! Exactly! Well I guess, let’s continue with the developmental stages and you are talking about I think you are in like the four year-old….

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Four - five sort of fairness quality and sort of comparisons. You know and as he get older, you know older children now we are talking about you know eight and above, they might have more of an independence and more of an sort of nurturing for much younger sibling. But there can also be a lot of resentment, you know “I don’t want to have to take care; I don’t want to have the burden”. You know, and that can be rivalry and of itself because there’s a little bit of age appropriate and independence may be little bit of age appropriate, lack of willingness to participate may be in the way that a younger child might just do because mommy said so. So that can change.

Johner Riehl: So rivalry doesn’t mean they are hitting or they are yelling on each other. There are other ways other things like it could be to manifest itself.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Right! Absolutely! And what I do want to get across to family is that you know a lot of families that I see, come to for sibling rivalry issues and the kids have been very violent and physically violent. I think you kind of talked about that a little bit. And that is definitely not a normal part of a sibling rivalry.

Erin Esteves (producer): If I can just jump in… I’ve got another perfect comment from Andrea Lebedinski. She’s saying that her first child actually humped the second child.

Johner Riehl: Humped?!! (Laugh)

Erin Esteves (producer): She climbed under the couch and sort of humped the baby. However the kids hadn’t got off the couch.

Johner Riehl: I mean we do have a… because our cousins were, you know the older one, I think he got violent with the baby like when it came that he you know would physically acts out towards it or you just get so mad in full of rage with it and that’s what you are saying isn’t necessarily normal.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: No! No! Absolute not and you know I think you know there is a big difference between aggressive behavior for two and a half you know toddler you know a little baby crawls up and takes the toy or knocks down the tower and that sort of swat. That’s one thing but violence towards aggression towards an infant or even two school age children showing physical aggression on a regular bases is not…

Johner Riehl: That's even beyond what we are talking about, and that's the type of behaviour that, you know, what kind of help can people get for that? Can they...?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Well, I think right away you need to consult with a specialist, like your school psychologist, or child psychologist, because there is a fine line between sibling rivalry and sibling abuse. A lot of families think, “You know, I've got boys, they're rough, they are pelting each other in the head”. You know, I think my rule of thumb is use the classroom model. So, if you are a schoolteacher in a school, would this be tolerated in your classroom? If the answer is 'No' then don't tolerate it in your house.

Johner Riehl: That's interesting!

Erin Esteves (producer): That's good. I like that...

Johner Riehl: What effect does, you know, gender have on sibling rivalry? Do you see differences between if it's an older sister as the oldest in the family, versus an older brother?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: So they actually have done a little bit of research on this, not a whole lot, because there's not a lot of funding for it, but what they have shown is that yeah, when there's an older sister, that older sister tends to be more nurturing with the baby, and that nurturing effect actually is greater the greater age gap between the older sister and the younger sibling. Whereas the older brothers may not be so involved in the nurturing and care taking. They also show with same gender siblings that there often can be slightly more competition and comparisons; usually by the parents though, there seems to be more of a parenting effect than what necessarily happens in isolation, but that just generally seems to happen because obviously interests are the same: “My leg Lego is your Lego, my soccer team won this many games, your soccer team won that many games”, it's intuitive actually...
Johner Riehl: It's almost an issue beyond siblings, that like we see with our kids...

Dr. Deb Pontillo: You have three boys?

Johner Riehl: Yeah, three boys! But comparing it with like, you know, we've had to tone back the rivalry if you will, or the competitions talk because it never ends well...

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Right!

Johner Riehl: I know where this is going. Someone's not going to win, and somebody's going to be sad.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Right!

Johner Riehl: Well, alright, let's take a break here, it's a good point, and when we come back, let's talk about some ways that parents can help deal with the rivalry maybe knowing when to step in, when they just know what’s natural.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Absolutely!

Johner Riehl: Right!

[Theme Music]

Johner Riehl: Welcome back everybody! Today we're talking about sibling rivalry, with Dr Debra Pontillo, here on Parent Savers. So how can parents know when to intervene with sibling rivalry and when to let it go? You know, when it's natural, and when it's “I need to do something about this”?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Well, I think you know my general rule of thumb is for children who are under the age of five or six, they pretty well need supervision and you to intervene, because you have to think about this. This is a real social skill, and they're developing their ability for social problem solving, social reasoning and what we call social thinking, which is the ability to think outside of your own needs, and to think about what your peer or in this case sibling is thinking, and how that affects your behavior. Kids under the age of five or six, they really, when conflicts do arise, don't have a lot skill to rely on it to resolve those conflict s so they need coaching and that doesn’t mean you’re intervening all the time you know sometimes it maybe just keeping an ear out and hoping that it goes well but when things start to go wrong they do require parent intervention. I think when you read online you’ll probably come up with internet resources saying like “let your kids handle it” think what they are talking more towards is the older school age children who really should know better means their kids they have been in school, they have been in playground conflicts, they pretty well has the experience in the skills to resolve conflicts and you like to not jumping and hold their hand every single time
Johner Riehl: It’s not that I think, I don’t think kids can be expected to naturally have the instinct to negotiate and handle conflict, I mean the instinct (can be the opposite right). So I think you do need to give them the skills and then now when to start stepping back to see if they are able to apply those skills.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Right! Right! I think even just hovering just to give them a praise about what they did right is huge because I think a lot of this squabbling is for parent attention, so if you’re there just hover and say “hey I love how you give your sister blahh, are you decided to give her a turn?” that can go long way too.

Laurie Babb: A tool that I learn recently through positive discipline sort of a school parenting was to come have a real life choice and in could be in any kind of conflict situation but you have made it up it’s something that you’ve made of several choices of actions that you can take. I guess that could be a list to but they do it as a wheel where… and I’ve tried to start using out with my five and a half year old, you know, okay so what are your choices here or not even showing him that. Sometimes we just talk about them, so okay, you can argue with him, you can yell at him, you can take the toy, you can, what happens? You know and just helping them to see the natural consequences. Well, right, okay, go with that choice, you know, and then see how it works out, you know, and what are your other options too and they start learning the causes and the benefits of their choices

Dr. Deb Pontillo: What if they argue about which choice?

Laurie Babb: Well of course you have to (unclear) self responsibility, yeah, it’s true, right, they not probably going to always agree on how to…

Erin Esteves (producer): So I guess that’s where some of the other comments that I’ve been getting on facebook will come in because people are like “oh smack him, spank him like we all used to get it” and I said “how about something that’s a little less violent and that won’t land parents in jail”

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Parents have to be you know, especially careful about how they resolve conflict because even just between husband and wife or partners, that the modeling goes a wrong way and so if you get angry and frustrated and you yell how do you think your kids are going to resolve their conflicts.

Johner Riehl: Yeah, they are definitely times when I see like our kids get frustrated and be like “oh man is he acting like me or is he acting like my wife”…Like where is he learning that, like he is picking that out from somewhere…

Dr. Deb Pontillo: That’s scary!

Johner Riehl: But you know, these kids are going to… they find the craziest things to rivals about you know, and it really is “oh, let me see what he wants first, and then I’m going to make the choice just because that…” and like they think that we don’t know what they’re doing, but…

Erin Esteves (producer): Something they normally hate they all of a sudden love!

Cecille Neri: Yeah, I feel like my middle child… and it’s funny because there’s rivalry between my oldest daughter and my middle daughter, and then there’s rivalry between my middle daughter and my youngest son, but not so much between my oldest and my youngest. She’s very nurturing towards my baby and, you know, sometimes… she’s six and seven so, you know, they do have their squabbles but, my middle daughter has it from both sides. And I do notice with what you said earlier to highlight when they do something good and I think a lot of the times it’s just them, they want my attention…

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Right.

Cecille Neri: And so when I give it to them, then I notice there’s a shift in behavior and they are more open to sharing and being nicer to that sibling.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Exactly!

Cecille Neri: So I think a lot of the times it’s not so much that they want to be better than that other person, it’s just they want you to make them feel like, you know, to feel valued.

Erin Esteves (producer): Be recognized and valued.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Absolutely!

Cecille Neri: Right! When I see the rivalry gaps, sometimes I know that they’re getting tired. So I’ll say, “Okay time for a story, we’re all going to lie down and read a story”. And that usually works, because it diverts -, because they’re just getting tired and frustrated and it’s coming out that way.

Johner Riehl: I have some situations come up sometimes where I can really understand why both are frustrated, and sometimes I even think that, “you know what? They’re both kind of right”. It’s like what do you do to step in there when there not like a clear, like, “alright you need to..,” There’s not a clear lesson, like, “oh you both kind of have…,” right, or maybe that is the lesson.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: That is the lesson! I think that’s perfect! Because you know, how often would this happen at work with a co-worker or, you know, with your partner or spouse? You know, you can’t… nothing’s black and white in life. And so here’s a situation “oh gosh, you’re both right, what are we going to do?” and come back to that real situation. What are our possibilities? You know, let’s figure it out. Or if it’s just frustration and they need to manage their frustration, you’ll go to your corners. I think a lot of times we forget that kids need their own space that are call theirs and their own…you know, that their own property and their own time, and maybe they just need to, you know, take a break and come back to it.

Johner Riehl: You have some parenting strategies to foster healthy relationships, so if you could tell us about that too?

Cecille Neri: Right! Well I think I spoke of one which I think is major, which sounds like it’s pretty simple but I find a lot of families forget about it and you can even do this even if your house is small. Kids really need their own space and their own stuff. So, you know, they need to have a room or a corner of their room that is truly theirs, and parents really need to be very proactive about enforcing this because of course that’s a real, you know, a trick, that kids love to get in each other’s space. But it really has to be a family rule just like no hitting and it has to be enforced, because kids need to feel they have their own territory, they have what’s theirs. They don’t need to share everything. Some things are truly, privately theirs and need to be respected, and that can help kids learn to share the other things including the communal part of the house that is for everyone but also the property and everything else, and be more flexible in that arena because they have that, their own private Idaho, if you will.

Johner Riehl: Yeah! That's hard with an almost two year-old daughter…

Dr. Deb Pontillo: It is! It's very difficult.

Johner Riehl: To keep their hands off those.

Cecille Neri: They're at an age where they're afraid to be alone. We have a tri-level. They're at an age where I can't just say, "will you go up to the third floor and you go down to the bottom floor?" We all kind of hang out on the middle level, and I try to say, "Well, why don't you go over there and read, and Bella you can do your crafts over here?" I can't just say, "Why don't you go upstairs and sit on your bed?" Because "well, I'm scared, I want you to come with me," and obviously I can't because I have two others. That's kind of a challenge for me and so we try to break up the living area as best as we can, but it's hard because I've got a three and a half who won't sit still, and he's in everybody's business.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: But they might not need their space right now. That's something that may come later for every child is different. Your seven year-old might be ready, and your others may not be but still, having their own stuff. If I have a two and a half year-old at home and he has his little penguin doll, that's his, and his little truck and a plane. Big sister just can't come grab it whenever she feels like it. He may or may not get that or care even, but we put it in one drawer, that's his drawer and that's his toy box, and that's it. Yeah, you're right. He doesn't want to go and spend time in his room alone like my six and a half year old does, but there's a sense of "what's mine". Therefore, there's a sense of the other things, which are communal. That kind of gives a healthy boundary to the house.

Laurie Babb: When I was a kid, I'm the baby of four. We all had to share things but we each had our own seat. We got to pick our own seat out. I had a red bean bad and my older sister had a yellow bean bag, and we could take that bean bag wherever we wanted in the house, wherever everybody was hanging out, and that was your private bean bag.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Bright idea!

Cecille Neri: That's nice!

Laurie Babb: Me and my brother had one of those like folding chairs and... I don't remember what my other sister had but I sure knew what my bean bag looked like, I'll tell you that.

Johner Riehl: And if anybody touched it. (Laugh). You had permission to...

Laurie Babb: Yeah!

Johner Riehl: By armed forces necessary.

Laurie Babb: We had talks about squatter's rights and everything so it was...

Johner Riehl: Yeah! That's awesome! Do they still sell bean bags?

Laurie Babb: They do!

Johner Riehl: That sort of thing?

Sunny Gault: Yeah, we have one. We have one.

Laurie Babb: It's awesome!

Johner Riehl: Right! Any other tips?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Yeah. So a lot of squabbles are going to be around "whose turn is whose, and when," so another tip that you can do is have your child have a day, so you can alternate on the calendar. Monday is "child 1", and Tuesday is "child 2," so that's their turn for first pick at the cookie jar or their turn to choose the game if it's they are fighting off for games. Whatever they fight over, there has no fighting of Monday is your day and Tuesday is your day and Wednesday is your day and Thursday is your day and Friday is voting day. So they get other sense that, they have something that is there’s and not going to fight about it. Who sits in which seat or blah...blah...blah...and you can kind of plan it out as a schedules and just eliminate that from the equation.

Johner Riehl: Nice! We did that on the vacation sometimes. Today's your day to hit the buttons on the elevator.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: That's great!

Johner Riehl: Oh biggest day, hit the buttons on the elevator, otherwise every elevator (unclear).

Laurie Babb: I have then...I think an issue of...when one child starts to load over the other, you know it’s like, “Oh, no today is my day!” How would you handle that?

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Well I think you have to have a certain number of standing rules in the house just like you have no hitting and no punching, you know, words hurt too. So, you know, just as you would enforce if one child bit another, you also say no name calling and no teasing or taunting because that’s a form of bulling and I think I had mentioned it before in my classroom model. If you are a school teacher and you observe these kind of taunting in your class room would you tolerate it? No, so you don’t tolerate it at home either. It’s just one of your rules of your house.

Johner Riehl: Do you see that older kid parents treat older kids different as to the younger kids a lot when it comes to sibling maybe you guys have that experience like I feel like we ask more over older more concessions like I know, it’s totally not fair on you but going to need to let him happen.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: It naturally happens because he is able to do more, but then you know.
Johner Riehl: Yeah! I feel bad.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: No, but then, you know what, that’s ok, because, what’s great about it that you can as a parent also built in something’s that some privileges that are unique to him for being the oldest. So that he can feel special like, look ok, I have to give for my younger brothers on XYZ. But they are not allowed to stay up late once a week for a late night and they are not allowed to go such of such with daddy because that’s only for me. So something that makes them feel unique and special about being the oldest that can kind of make help to pay off a little bit.
Johner Riehl: My friend was just telling me that what she does with her oldest daughter who I think is four years-older than her son nine and five I think. That when she does gets mad that something’s, you know, not the same eventually, “Alright, you want equal? I can make everything equal, but there is times where you get bigger portions”.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Yeah and with an older child, I mean the older they get, you can talk about fairing and equality in that, and they are not really the same thing. You can never be equal, and nothing would ever be equal .You are actually going to get more privileges sooner than your younger brothers. Is at equal “No”, but is it fair? Yes, because you are the biggest.

Cecille Neri: How do you handle you middle child? I mean, I feel bad sometimes because she gets clothes that my older child has worn before and yes, she is not the baby of the family. So sometimes I feel bad for her and I don't really know how to make her feel as important as the other two, “Bella! Don’t you know we love you, you are special”. I don't know how to make her feel like her place in the family is just as important as the other two.

Dr. Deb Pontillo: Right! I think it depends on the individual child but you probably know your middle child better than anybody and you can probably tell me (although we won't have time here) what her specific talents and strengths are and how her specific talents and strengths are different from her siblings. And that is going to really be a great avenue for you to spend a lot of time and attention with, whether it be she is the best I don’t know, bike rider of them all, or she is the best singer of them all, or she is the best gymnast of them all, or she is really great at cooking with mommy. Something that makes her unique, and really just develop that as something that she's interested in and proud of, and that she can have self-confidence, let them teach the others, both the older one and the younger one, because that's her niche.

Johner Riehl: I think our middle one is in a unique position, a special one, because he gets to have a close relationship with the older one and the younger, based on our spacing. They are in a unique position to get pulled up to the older brother but also to then get pulled down to the younger one too.

Sunny Gault: Yes! These are the kids that, in research, get to being the most flexible of all the birth orders and able to get along with more people. Their social skills are often the highest and best developed.

Johner Riehl: Right, we've covered off quite lot and hopefully we've covered everyone's questions and any more coming in from twitter and facebook. That was great to get some of those, so thanks very much for participating. And thanks so much for the conversation. Again Dr. Pontillo! Great to have you in! Thanks to Laurie and Cecille for being in the studio as well. For more information about sibling rivalry or for more information about any of our panelists, visit the episode page on our website. We are actually going to continue the conversation briefly for members of our Parent Savers Club after the show. Dr Pontillo's going to tell us about sibling rivalry with, wait for it, TWINS. Sunny make sure to stay tuned for that one. For more information about the Parent Savers Club, visit our website

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Johner Riehl: Listen, Jenna, from Texas, asks a question via email. She writes, "My son has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS last summer. He is delayed in speech and has sensory issues. My husband is having a really hard time with this. Why is it so hard for men to accept the diagnosis for their own child? He has blamed me and my side of the family for our son's special needs but there is no evidence. What is the best way to handle this situation?"

Dr. Dan Singley: Hi Jenna. My name is Dr Dan Singleyi and I'm a Clinical Psychologist specializing in men's issue, in particular new fatherhood. The first thing I would say is that you didn't say how old your child is and so that draws to bear on the validity of the diagnosis. PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, is in a sense a catch-all for certain clusters of developmental delays and that may or may not stick having delayed speech, speech may get caught up and having century issues as well. There are lot of high quality artificial therapy that can help a child to develop a more balance century diet, but that aside, the quick answer to your question is that mental health is being a bond and men, very commonly when they feel really painful notion like shame, fear, regret rather than connecting with them as such they will come along with other feelings that they are more comfortable expressing like anger or frustration and irritation and going on the blame game is really likely be a manifestation at that kind of reaction, a way to keep away from the much more threatening feelings about ‘”Well, jezz, this isn’t what it looks like in the Hollywood movies” and “What’s my life as a father of a special need child going to be”, which can be a fairly threatening issue to deal with. What I would suggest is just bring that recognition with you and if it’s playing out where you are having difficulties with your relationship, of course get couples counseling to see about developing some communication skills to work through those concerns. The other is and you are very unlikely to want do this is, is my guess but if there are groups or information about fathers and kids that, do you have special needs to see that connecting your husband with them or you going and checking them out to see what sort of group resources or information there are, because you are certainly not the first person to be on this situation.
Appreciate you calling in, it’s a thoughtful question and I wish you all the best.

Johner Riehl: That raps it up for today’s episode of Parent Savers actually for the second part of our two part Parent Savers series. If you didn’t check up the first one, go back and listen to the episode about Preparing for Another Baby. Next week, what we will be talking about is healthy eating strategies for joining with us for that too. We appreciate you listening to Parent Savers and don’t forget to check out our sister show Preggie Pals for Expecting Parents and our show The Boob Group for moms who breast feed their babies.

This is Parent Savers! Empowering new parents!


This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.


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