When your kids don’t get along.

Sibling Aggression: When Your Kids Don’t Get Along

by Josephine Tierney

I may not have the power to fully dispel a tradition so deeply ingrained in history, but I have made gains. Who knows what the future brings? Children are unpredictable. But for today, I’ll claim one small victory for motherhood.


A blood curdling, gut-wrenching scream interrupted the serenity of the afternoon. Moments later I saw my 11-year-old son, Ben, sprinting toward me with a look of terror on his face.

Sibling Aggression: When Your Kids Don't Get Along

An assailant was at his heels, visibly filled with rage.

Despite the chaos, I stood unwavering, prepared for a confrontation. I knew the culprit well; this wasn’t our first encounter. Ben took shelter, crouching out of reach behind me, shrieking, “Mommy, Josh punched me!” Josh, my 7-year-old son, defiantly declared, “I did not!”

Mediating squabbles between Ben and Josh had become a recurring burden. At face value, the scene was comical: my fifth-grader running in fear from the much smaller first-grader. But any semblance of humor left long ago, replaced by aggravation and angst.

My Josh’s personality is like a pendulum. His moods vacillate wildly. Depending upon the audience, his attitude can warm a soul or frost a heart. Josh’s adoration for me is limitless, and he smothers me with affection daily. His 9 year-old brother, Peter, is his idol. Josh emulates his every move in a quest for Peter’s recognition and approval. Most of Josh’s hostility is directed at Ben. Time-outs and consequences have had little impact on Josh’s behavior. Punitive measures merely serve as band-aids.

Later that evening, in the stillness of the night, I quietly reflected on the fury and frustration of the day. A feeling of defeat flooded my body. What was I doing wrong? How could I calm the unrest festering in my home?

Ben has Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). My husband and I had made the decision not to disclose this to the boys until we felt Ben was ready to fully comprehend and process the nuances and ramifications of Autism. So, I imagine that growing up with Ben is stressful and confusing. Behaviors associated with ASD are often difficult for adults to comprehend. How could a 7-year-old be expected to understand the complexities of Ben’s personality?

Ben is structured and ritualistic. For all of us, it has become habit to yield to his desires. Ben often dictates the television programs the boys watch and which games they should play. Peter dutifully acquiesces, out of a mixture of custom and a desire to appease Ben.

Josh is less compliant. He doesn’t share Peter’s blind allegiance to Ben. He’s willful, wanting to live life following his own agenda, not Ben’s. Ironically, Josh has received three character awards for his devotion to his differently-abled classmates in kindergarten. Yet he doesn’t show the same empathy for his sibling. I wondered, would their relationship improve if Josh identified some of Ben’s unique attributes?

I began to examine their relationship from Josh’s 7-year-old perspective, watching as he interacted with Ben. I eavesdropped on their conversations and studied Josh’s body language. I questioned the boys separately, attempting to understand each son’s perspective of their relationship.

Josh, who spends hours inventing original adventures for his toys and stuffed animals, explained that he doesn’t like to play with “Ben’s imagination.” He also sheepishly disclosed that Ben “annoys me and blames me for stuff.” And Josh was right; often times, Ben will accuse him of “ruining everything.” Josh merely suggesting an alternate movie selection will immediately provoke a blaming response from Ben. I would be exasperated too, if I was repeatedly berated for simply voicing my opinion.

Armed with a better understanding of the sentiments fueling Josh’s behavior gave me hope that harmony could return to our household. Weighing my words carefully, I briefed Josh on Ben’s sensitivities and in-flexibilities, urging him to consult me when he begins to feel agitated or persecuted by his brother. I also explained to Ben that everyone is entitled to be heard, reminding him that relationships, familial or otherwise, need to be nurtured.

Most importantly, I encouraged Josh and Ben to engage in activities they both enjoy. Luckily, Mother Nature has been my ally. With the arrival of warm sunny days, the pool beckons to both of them. Peter’s lack of interest in the pool affords his brothers hours of uninterrupted time together.

Progress has been slow and steady. The household dynamic is transitioning from dictatorship to democracy. Josh has orchestrated our weekly movie night without overt grumbling from Ben. In turn, I’ve witnessed Ben, stuffed animal in hand, make a concerted effort to engage in Josh’s creative fantasies. Josh’s aggressive outbursts have decreased.

Of course life isn’t perfect, but it’s better. Sibling rivalry is impossible to eradicate. Ben said it best, philosophically declaring, “It’s in our nature. Brothers and sisters have been fighting since the dawn of time.”

Josephine Tierney is a working mother raising three sons, one of whom has an autism spectrum disorder. She is a professional in the criminal justice field, specializing in matters pertaining to law enforcement and legal services.



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Great Article from Empowering Parents Website!

End the Nightly Homework Struggle: 5 Homework Strategies That Work for Kids

By Megan Devine, LCPC

End the Nightly Homework Struggle: 5 Homework Strategies That Work for Kids

Are you trapped in a nightly homework struggle with your child? The list of excuses can seem endless: “I don’t have any homework today.” “My teacher never looks at my homework anyway.” “That assignment was optional.” “I did it at school.” If only your child could be that creative with their actual homework, getting good grades would be no problem!

Pre-teens and teens often insist they have no homework even when they do, or tell parents that they’ve completed their assignments at school when they haven’t. If your child’s grades are acceptable and you receive positive reports from their teachers, congratulations – your child is doing just fine. James Lehman advises that students who are doing well have earned the privilege of doing their homework whenever and however they see fit. But if their grades reflect missing assignments, or your child’s teachers tell you that they’re falling behind, you need to institute some new homework practices in your household. For those classes in which your child is doing poorly, they lose the privilege of doing homework in an unstructured way. For the classes they are doing well in, they can continue to do that homework on their own.

Trying to convince your child that grades are important can be a losing battle. You can’t make your child take school as seriously as you do; the truth is, they don’t typically think that way. Remember, as James says, it’s not that they aren’t motivated, it’s that they’re motivated to do what they want to do. In order to get your child to do their homework, you have to focus on their behavior, not their motivation. So instead of giving them a lecture, focus on their behavior and their homework skills. Let them know that completing homework and getting passing grades are not optional.

If you’re facing the rest of the school year with dread and irritation, you’re not alone. By following the tips below, you can improve your child’s homework skills and reduce your frustration!

5 Strategies to Get Homework Back On Track

Schedule Daily Homework Time
If your child often says they have no homework but their grades are poor, they may not be telling you accurate information, they may have completely tuned out their teacher’s instructions, or need to improve some other organizations skills, for example. The Total Transformation Program recommends that whether your child has homework or not, create a mandatory homework time each school day for those classes in which you child is doing poorly.

Use the “10-Minute Rule” formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which recommends that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so forth.

It will be most effective if you choose the same time every day. For example, you might schedule homework time for the classes that your child is doing poorly in to begin at 4:00 p.m. every school day. If your child says they have no homework in those subjects, then they can spend that time reading ahead in their textbooks, making up missed work, working on extra credit projects, or studying for tests. If they say “I forgot my books at school,” have them read a book related to one of their subjects. By making study time a priority, you will sidestep all those excuses and claims of “no homework today.” If your child has to spend a few days doing “busy work” during the daily homework time, you may even find that they bring home more actual assignments!

Use a Public Space
It’s important to monitor your child’s homework time. For families where both parents work, you may need to schedule it in the evening. In many instances it may be more productive to have your child do their homework in a public space. That means the living room or the kitchen, or some place equally public where you can easily check in on them. Let them know they can ask for help if they need it, but allow them to do their own work. If your child would like to do his or her homework in their room, let them know that they can earn that privilege back when they have pulled up the grades in the subjects in which they are doing poorly.

Use Daily Incentives
Let your child know that they will have access to privileges when they have completed their homework. For example, you might say, “Once you’ve completed your homework time, you are free to use your electronics or see your friends.” Be clear with your child about the consequences for refusing to study, or for putting their work off until later. According to James Lehman, consequences should be short term, and should fit the “crime.” You might say, “If you choose not to study during the scheduled time, you will lose your electronics for the night. Tomorrow, you’ll get another chance to use them.” The next day, your child gets to try again – observing her homework time and earning her privileges. Don’t take away privileges for more than a day, as your child will have no incentive to do better the next time.

Work towards Something Bigger
Remember, kids don’t place as much importance on schoolwork as you do. As you focus on their behavior, not their motivation, you should begin to see some improvement in their homework skills. You can use your child’s motivation to your advantage if they have something they’d like to earn. For example, if your child would like to get his driver’s permit, you might encourage him to earn that privilege by showing you he can complete his homework appropriately. You might say, “In order to feel comfortable letting you drive, I need to see that you can follow rules, even when you don’t agree with them. When you can show me that you can complete your homework appropriately, I’d be happy to sit down and talk with you about getting your permit.” If your child starts complaining about the homework rule, you can say, “I know you want to get that driver’s permit. You need to show me you can follow a simple rule before I’ll even talk to you about it. Get going on that homework.” By doing this, you sidestep all the arguments around both the homework and the permit.

Skills + Practice = Success
Tying homework compliance with your child’s desires isn’t about having your child jump through hoops in order to get something they want. It’s not even about making them take something seriously, when they don’t see it that way. It’s about helping your child learn the skills they need to live life successfully. All of us need to learn how to complete things we don’t want to do. We all have occasions where we have to follow a rule, even when we disagree with it. When you create mandatory, daily homework time, you help your child practice these skills. When you tie that homework time to daily, practical incentives, you encourage your child to succeed.

If you are a Total Transformation customer, you can access our Support Line for help with these and other challenges you’re experiencing with your child. Support Line specialists have helped hundreds of parents customize homework plans, and we can help you, too. Specialists can also work with you to formulate realistic, appropriate consequences to help enforce the daily routine.

Read more: http://www.empoweringparents.com/End-the-Nightly-Struggle-over-Homework-Now.php#ixzz3maGIo0F2