What This Situation Is Like for Parents

 

You had multiple children so that they would be there for each other… take care of each other… and have fun times together. You did NOT have multiple children so that they would argue over who got more of something. 

So when they complain that their brother got more ice cream…

Or when one pushes the other aside to get the bigger slice of pizza…

Or when they each scream at the top of their lungs that their brother or sister “always gets more than they do”…

You want to scream back, telling them that life isn’t always fair… and they should just be nice to each other! 

But of course that won’t help.

 

What This Situation Is Like for Children

 

Every one of us needs to know that we matter. At the same time, parents do not (and cannot) show their children that they matter all the time!

So they children competitive with their siblings when they believe that they’ve gotten less of something.

And they notice, very clearly, when a sibling has gotten more than they have.

And they get upset when someone tells them that everything is “equal” when to them, it isn’t.

And they lose it when someone tells them that “life isn’t fair,” because that means they have no control over anything.

And they have no tools to deal with any of those feelings.

 

 

How It Usually Goes  

When Children Argue Over Who Got More Of Something

 

Scenario: Rose and her brother Matt are at a party eating cake. As they are eating, Rose reaches over and takes some of the icing off of Matt’s cake.

 

Matt: Hey! No fair!

Rose: But I wanted more icing. It’s not fair that you got more to begin with!

Matt: No I didn’t!

Rose: Yes you did! You have more! So I’m taking some from you.

Matt: No way! 

Rose: Yes! Get out of my face!

Dad: Rose, stop talking to your brother that way. And you can’t just take something from him.

Rose: But he had more icing. 

Dad: It doesn’t matter. You still can’t talk to him that way.

Rose: But, Dad… Why is it OK that he got more?

Dad: Sometimes that happens, Rose. You need to learn how to deal with it.

Rose: You’re so MEAN!

Dad: That’s fine. I’m mean. I don’t care. You just need to act differently. NOW. 

Rose (starts crying hysterically).

 

How It Could Go  

When Children Argue Over Who Got More Of Something

 

Scenario: Rose and her brother Matt are at a party eating cake. As they are eating, Rose reaches over and takes some of the icing off of Matt’s cake.

 

Matt: Hey! No fair!

Rose: But I wanted more icing. It’s not fair that you got more to begin with!

Matt: No I didn’t!

Rose: Yes you did! You have more! So I’m taking some from you.

Matt: No way! 

Rose: Yes! Get out of my face!

Dad: Hey Rose… What’s the matter?

 

CALM

Rose’s dad is frustrated with Rose’s behavior. But instead of letting her behavior control his, he reminds himself that he can model acting respectful even when things aren’t going your way.

He is able to stay calm and focus on why Rose might be acting the way she is.

 

Rose: Matt got more icing than I did.

Dad: Ugh. I know you love icing.

Rose: Yeah. And he always gets more!

Dad: That must make you angry… that you think he gets more than you do.

Rose: Yeah!

Dad: Well I can understand that.

 

CONNECT

Rose’s dad is respecting Rose’s perspective. Just listening to her is treating her as if she matters, which is what she is ultimately looking for.

 

Rose: Yeah.

Dad: So you took his icing so you could have more.

Rose: Exactly.

Dad: Do you think you could find another way to handle that situation if you want more icing?

Rose: No.

Dad: What would happen if you asked for a little more?

Rose: I don’t know. You might say no.

Dad: Is that why you just took it from him?

Rose: Yeah.

Dad: OK. Fair enough. Can I ask for something though?

Rose: What?

Dad: Instead of taking something from him, can you tell me what you need? If you want more icing, can you tell me that’s what you want?

 

CORRECT

Rose’s dad realizes that she genuinely doesn’t know how to get her own needs for significance and control met.

He responds to this by letting her know that her perspective matters… and teaches her how to feel more in control by asking for what she needs.  

 

Rose:  What if you say no?

Dad: I’ll tell you what. If it’s something you can’t have, I’ll help you deal with it, OK?

Rose (curiously) How are you going to do that?

Dad: At the very least, I’ll listen to you complain about it….  

Rose (sighs): Fine.

 

…And if the two kids still don’t stop fighting when the “instigator” is addressed with respect

Matt and Rose’s dad needs to re-state his boundary (“We will not fight over cake right now”)

When both kids get upset, he lets them get upset. In this case, he may have to tune out the judgment of the parents around him or take the kids away.

When they get their Yuck out, the kids are likely to want to go back to the cake and will no longer fight over it.

 

 

How to Make the In-the-Moment Strategy Work

 

The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If siblings argue over who got more of something, consider:

 

Depositing into CALM

Rose and Matt’s dad will NOT be able to stay calm if

a.) his biological or emotional needs are low (if he is worried about what other people think of his kids when they aren’t behaving properly)

b.) his expectations are not realistic — if he thinks that kids will never argue with each other over “little” things

When he makes sure his own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Rose and Matt’s dad is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.

 

Depositing into CONNECT

Rose and Matt’s dad will only be able to connect if

a.) he respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) he understands those reasons (in this case, Rose genuinely doesn’t know handle the feeling of someone getting something that she wanted)

When he becomes comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, he will be able to connect more effectively.

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.

 

Depositing into CORRECT

Rose and Matt’s dad will only be able to use tools to effectively correct if:

a.) He has demonstrated consistently in the past that she means what she says; for example, that he has shown that he will wait until Rose and Matt are not fighting before he brings them back into the party

b.) He has made enough deposits into his relationships with his kids that asking them to stop fighting will not put them deeper into Yuck.

When he demonstrates that he means what he says and when she makes deposits into his kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, he will be able to correct their behavior more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.