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How To Homeschool

Uncle CHiN

Dear Uncle CHiN,

What can I do about sibling rivalry between two young children? This seriously affects our homeschooling.

Signed, Pulling Hair Out

Dear Baldy,

Make sure each child has your total attention at least once or twice a week. Let the others know that "Itís Maryís day today," and then do special things for that child. In fact, do special things for each child at different times. For instance, have one child pick a place to go for a particular day, then give the others a choice if they want to come along or not.

Also, talk seriously with each sibling. Tell each one that he/she is precious to you, so you expect them to love each other, too. Praise each child when he/she does something nice for the other sibling.

Another tactic you might try: I recommend you make a study of the children's interactions. Frequently squabbling takes on a pattern--becomes a "game," if you will--with Child A masterfully pushing Child B's buttons, and Child B exploding in a way that thoroughly delights Child A. Then, you know, come the predictable retaliations, and the counter-retaliations, and then each side escalates . . . It sure gets old, doesn't it?!

With older children, (say, age ten and up) it is sometimes possible to make them see the pattern. You can then give them the power and opportunity to break the pattern, (if they truly want to—sometimes fighting is quite literally a game, and one or both actually enjoys their roles in it.) It's especially useful to help Child B, the usual victim, to learn to control his or her response.

Then, again, maybe you are the problem. Watch yourself, it may be your signals that make them fight for attention. This requires soul-searching, and Iíll leave you to your own private search.

Fondly, Your dear old Uncle CHiN

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