Q: When my 9-year-old gets his 4-year-old brother to do something inappropriate, like open an unbought bag of corn chips at the store, who gets the time-out?
A: Both children should receive consequences, but a time-out isn't the way to go.
"The purpose of a time-out is to create some space between the child and a parent who wants to heave him against the wall, but time-outs don't teach a lesson," says Brown Braun. "Your child isn't necessarily thinking about what he did."
Instead, calmly say to the younger child: "You opened something that we weren't going to buy. That is against the rules of the market and our family. I'm going to buy the chips now because I have to. But you may not eat them because you did not follow the rules. And I'm not going to keep bringing you to the store if this happens again."
Later, talk to your older son. It's normal for him to do a little boundary testing - and to try to manipulate his sib. Not only does that let him claim "It wasn't me!" but, points out Brown Braun, "it's pretty intoxicating to be the nine-year-old whose younger sibling will do anything for him."
To make the reprimand fit the crime, say something like "I'm disappointed that you're choosing to teach your brother to break rules. Rules matter, and your brother looks up to you."
Just as important, when you see your older child setting a good example, praise him for being a stellar role model. "Your nine-year-old loves the power, so turn it into a positive kind of power," Brown Braun advises.