Originally Posted by erigeron
I don't feel that getting off the hook for wronging his sibling sends the right message to either child. There needs to be some sort of sequela--whether it's the parent talking it over with the child or with both children or whether it's a previously agreed-upon consequence (if you hit your sister you lose an hour of TV time) or something else.
I read erigeron as saying that kids need to see that the parent is addressing the problem, however it is that parents address it. I agree that kids need to know this. Sometimes, my kids express, explicitly or otherwise, a need to know or see that I'm addressing an issue, but they always have a need, on some level, to know it. So in this example, my 9 year old might really need to see not just that I take her needs seriously, but that I'm making an effort to teach the 6 year old to respect her needs. I can respect my 9 year olds needs all day long, and she knows that. What she needs to see/know is that I'm also teaching her siblings to respect her needs--because we do all live together, and knowing that parents are actively working to make sure everyone treats each other appropriately reduces the natural stress of living together. That's not about the 9 year old's desire to see her sibling punished or about her happiness depending on how the younger sibling is treated by mom. That's seeking reassurance that the adult in charge is handling things. I think this is particularly true when there's a problem that's ongoing, where one sibling frequently engages in behavior that's distressing to another.
Sometimes that's tricky, because maybe the 6 year old gets embarrassed if I speak to her about her inappropriate behavior in front of her sister and I respect that need for privacy. I have found that, at least as kids get older, any sort of reprimand in front of siblings tends to create more tension and rivalry. If it were me in this example, I would probably send the 6 year old to sit down and cool off. Then I'd talk to the 9 year old, hug and listen, and, if needed, let her know I'll be talking to the 6 year old. Then I'd talk to the 6 year old (privately), explain why what they did was inappropriate, suggest (or, better, ask them to suggest) another way to handle the situation, and suggest (strongly) that they apologize.
I also think that sometimes kids demand to see their sibling "get in trouble" for other reasons. I have one who, any time I call her out on her behavior, lists all the times her siblings did that too, or all of the things they did to make her do whatever she did. It's her way, I think, of saving face. Doesn't matter how gently I approach her, this is her go-to. Other times, my kids have expressed a desire to see their sibling get in trouble too because, I think, I've been a little too involved in mediating their squabbles. So, my policy (ideally) around sibling fighting is to separate them (they're 9-13 years old now) rather than mediate. I rarely address one child specifically unless someone has become (or threatened to become) physically aggressive, damaged/thrown property, or engaged in name-calling (or a pattern of distressing-to-siblings behavior has begun to develop). This seems to reduce tension/rivalry and fighting. I don't think it would have worked as well when they were 5/6 and under.
Edited by Magella - 12/5/12 at 10:40am