Children need limits and good spoken rules (that are also written- down) , so all siblings know how to behave and can repeat those set of laws out loud to each other. How siblings behave toward each other is the first social lesson they get on how to interact with the world and perhaps their future boyfriend, girlfriends, partner or spouse. It also gives siblings the framework to cooperate with each other, which will help them avoid potential battles in all stages of their life and maybe an upcoming “I Hate You” story. Give them positive rules and perimeters.
What we have learned from our midlife “I Hate You” stories is that not saying family rules out loud can be lethal to a sibling relationship. Rules have to be fair, yet they can’t be silent.
Daryl and Mike, midlife siblings had an “I Hate You” story, chronicled in my new book Mom Loves You Best, Forgiving and Forging Sibling Relationships Daryl and Mike’s family rule told them to always try to beat each other at everything. The rule began with their parents pitting then against each other in childhood. The family imperative was the first always wins.
Midlife sibling Ginger’s imperfect operating system scripted her family rule her that boys get the biggest share and girls the leftovers. These old broken operating systems remained in Daryl’s and Ginger’s brains for their entire adulthood, substituting for the real universe in their day-to-day life. So to avoid future sibling combat as a present-life parent of young siblings, set fair family rules.
Young Generation X mother Glenda faced with her two children fighting and at times slugging each other, is referred to a counselor through her HR work and family program. The counselor is able to suggest many ways that Glenda can parent more successfully. One thing the therapist suggests is to set limits carefully and fairly. The counselor also suggests that she say these rules out loud to her kids plus write them down so they are a positive set of laws that tell everyone how to behave. Glenda starts by saying toddler Snookie cannot have free reign to go into 7 year old Roger’s room and tear up his Lego creations. Roger’s room is put off limits to Snookie. This rule is written very clearly in a document that is posted on the refrigerator and gently made clear to Snookie. So making clear rules that were fair and benefited Fess, who was acting out for slugging her older sister, helped this family.
. The counselor suggests Glenda change all this and start implementing some fair but firm boundaries. Glenda does not have to go to extremes—too few boundaries like her parents, or too many boundaries so her kids will rebel—but she should try to make a fair mix of family laws to help her kids be safe and feel secure.