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Peace At Last!

Rule #3: Tune Out

Rule #3: Don't listen to complaints  -- ever, except when there's a possibility of harm (see Rule #1).

This is a big one. The payoff is huge, and it totally changes the meaning and purpose of bickering between your kids, moving it in a direction that's healthy and useful. The technique can be boiled down to saying seven simple words: "I don't want to hear about it." As in:

"Mommy, Evan called me a swear."

"I don't want to hear about it."

"Daddy, Lydia's not giving me a turn."

"I don't want to hear about it."

"Mommy, Betsy pushed me."

"I don't want to hear about it."

"Daddy, Ezra drooled on purpose on my sweater."

"I don't want to hear about it."

The point, obviously, is that you will not get involved in their arguments. If this seems harsh, there are gentler ways to be supportive without entering into a dispute.

"Mommy, Evan called me a swear."

"Would you like a hug?"

"Daddy, Lydia's not giving me a turn."

"Boy, that must be frustrating."

"Mommy, Betsy pushed me."

"That must have been unpleasant."

"Daddy, Ezra drooled on purpose on my sweater."

"Oh. That sounds like a problem."

That is, I'm sympathetic, but whatever the problem, it's yours and not mine. You'll have to deal with it because I certainly won't. I'm gently, lovingly throwing it back at you.

Just be prepared: Hugs and sympathy really aren't what squabbling sibs are after, and they'll keep trying to get you to take sides.

"Mommy, Evan called me a swear."

"Would you like a hug?"

"But he called me a swear."

"Sure you don't want a hug?"

"You don't understand. He's not allowed to do that."

"Well, that sounds like a problem."

"You're not listening to me."

"Gosh, J.J., I don't know what to say." (This is a great phrase to have on hand.)

And then J.J. exits, returning to tackle the problem  -- or not  -- on his own. Which is exactly what you want.

Eliminating yourself from the sibling bickering equation will allow your kids to work out solutions on their own. When parents stay out of it, rivalry exists in its own separate realm as a problem between brother and sister, rather than being about something altogether different  -- getting as much of you as possible.

  From "Mom, Jason's Breathing on Me!" by Anthony E. Wolf, Ph.D. Copyright 2003 by Anthony E. Wolf. Published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

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