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How to Stop Sibling Rivalry

How to End Sibling Rivalry

by Jeff Veley | Love Changes It All

Often we think that issues, such as bullying, take place most often at school.  The truth is that the majority of these conflicts occur at home, between siblings.  If you are a parent with more than one child, I’m sure it’s not difficult to picture a time when your kids were fighting.  Why is this?

As humans, we are wired to dominate.  While our world has gone through many changes and become civilized over the years, our bodies and minds have gone through very little change.  Each of us still possesses the desire to rise of above others, dominate, win, achieve, and attempt to alter situations so that we can get our way.  It is only natural, in this process of trying to get to the top, that we will encounter conflicts with others.

The home is the perfect place for conflict.  Whether it’s fighting over the remote, choosing who gets to pick the restaurant for dinner, or who gets to ride shotgun, siblings can easily find situations where they want to dominate, creating conflict.  As a parent you have several ways in which you can respond to conflict.  I will focus on two with you.  As you look at these responses, as yourself which response is your “go to”.

When my kids have a conflict, I tend to…

A. Get involved and try to stop the fighting.

B. Don’t get involved and allow them to work it out on their own.

Let’s take a look at the intentions and the consequences of each response.

A. Get involved and try to stop the fighting.


  • Teach your children that it is not okay to fight
  • Teach your kids how to share and compromise with one another.
  • To create a “fair” environment where each child has a turn
  • Show your children that you are there to help them solve their social problems
  • Maintain order and peace within your home
  • Simplify the situation, solve the conflict quickly, and move on


  • It puts you in the middle or a situation that often doesn’t have a clear “wrong” or “right” response, forcing you to choose between your children
  • Positions you become the rope in the tug of war for power and approval
  • Forces your children to continue fighting for their way in order to convince you that they are correct, therefore giving fuel to their emotions and cementing their viewpoint/position
  • Places you in a defensive (weaker) position where you are forced to justify your final decision or risk relationship with one child or perhaps both
  • Teaches your kids that they should go to you to solve their social problems rather than solving it themselves
  • Adds a third person into the conflict/argument rather than just the two, creating a triangle of communication
  • Positions you as an ever-ready referee and judge, when conflict arises.

Now let’s look at the other response…

B. Don’t get involved and allow them to work it out on their own.


  • You want your children to learn how to solve their own problems
  • You don’t want to spend your time breaking up simple squabbles but would rather only be involved when there is a serious issue that your children cannot solve for them self.


  • Siblings learn that they must work out their differences and solve their own problems
  • Kids develop resilience while learning social and emotional coping skills
  • It doesn’t “cost” you any points in the relationship.  Rather than choosing a side, you are seen as supporting both children equally.  Your children learn that you are always there to advise them on how solve the conflict but you leave the actual working it out to them.
  • It prepares them to solve more complex problems on their own later in life
  • They find that mom and dad are there to help them but will not always intervene
  • It positions you as an ever-ready coach and counselor.

To summarize, my advice is this… When conflict arises between your kids, only get involved as a coach and counselor, never a referee. Only step in and enforce if your child’s actions cause objective harm (physical harm to objects or people).  By equipping your child with social and emotional coping skills and empowering them to solve their own social problems, you will help them face adversity, grow in resilience, and prepare to solve their own social problems both in and outside of the home.  When you do that, you will truly teach your kids how to be strong.

Keeping Social Problems Off Social Media

As a parent it can be so frustrating to see your child mistreated.  Hearing that your kid is being relentlessly teased, left out, or has a rumor being spread about them is so hard to deal with.  It may make you want to scream, lash out, or even publicly post to bring an awareness to the behavior.  Here’s why…

1. It Tells Their Enemy That They Are Winning

The goal of someone who is being aggressive and displaying dominance is to make the targeted person upset.  By getting upset and posting this online, not only do you give them the satisfaction of upsetting your child but they also learn that they can make you, the parent, upset through their actions.  They also get attention from the public posting where many more people can see it.  If hurting or humiliating your child is their goal, your public posting only helps accomplish it.

2. It Raises Hostility

People are more likely to fight back when you are upset and accusatory then when you are calm and kind.  Often posts about issues like bullying on social media are posted by parents who point fingers at their child’s school.  Schools aren’t perfect, just like workplaces, churches, community meetings, parks, etc.  While the staff may be neglectful in some areas they might also be doing there very best to address the very issue that you are upset about.

Pointing fingers at a school or an individual often drives distance between you and them at a time where you need their help the most.  A honest private conversation in the spirit of love and understanding goes much further and helps the other party empathize with your position.

3.  We Don’t Need Awareness, We Need Solutions

When it comes to issues like bullying, aggression, and violence, we are aware that there is a problem.  While raising awareness about an issue (especially in the areas of diversity and social justice) it does little to help without a proven solution of how to solve the issue and make the negative behavior to stop.  Often raising awareness can make things worse.  For example, sharing suicide stories in the media is proven to increase the rate.  While good-intentioned people think they are helping by raising awareness they are unknowingly making the issue worse.

4. It Exploits Your Child’s Issues and Can Make Them a Bigger Target

Consider this… if you were having an issue in your marriage would you want your mother or father to post something about your spouse on social media?  I’m guessing that your answer is “no”.  Why?  You likely went to them in confidence and trusted that they would give you advice on how to solve it yourself.  Yes, they may try to protect you, but you would hope that it would be within the privacy of your family.  You certainly wouldn’t want the world to know, not to mention, be able to weigh in and give their opinion.

If you want to build a relationship of trust and mutual respect with your child you must ask yourself how you would feel if you were placed in their position.  The Golden Rule states that you should “Treat Others the Way that You Want to Be Treated”.  I believe that we can give the Golden Rule a parent remix  (see below)…

The Golden Rule Parent Remix
“Parent in the Way That You Would Like to Be Parented”

Helping Kids Control Their Anger

Anger Management Techniques

by Jeff Veley | Love Changes It All

Simple Strategies for Anger Management

Anger is often the emotion that gets us in trouble.  We’ve all seen anger outbursts.  It might be a teenager screaming and slamming their bedroom door when mom and dad say “no” to them staying out past curfew or a toddler who flings their bowl of pasta on spaghetti night.  Then there are more serious incidents where anger gets the best of us and can lead to us saying some very hurtful words or a fight that results in serious consequences.

I recently received a question from Austin, a teen who asked for my advice in helping him control his anger.  Here are some tips that I gave him…

1. Realize that You Are Making Yourself Upset

Have you ever heard that phrase, “They were pushing my buttons”?  Well, believe it or not, it’s a total lie.  There’s no remote control connected to your brain that someone can pick up, press, and instantly make you mad.  If you take classes on psychology or anger management you’ll quickly learn that no one has the power to make you angry.  Yep, that’s right.  They CAN’T make you mad.  Instead, you mentally process their behavior in a way that you upset yourself.

To deal with the emotion of anger, you must first understand that it’s not others making you mad that is the problem.  The real problem is that you are upsetting yourself.  Now that you know that it’s YOUR THINKING that’s causing you to get angry, you can work on changing your thinking and your actions.  When you do this, your feelings will follow (research Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for more on this).  You can’t control other’s actions but you can control your reaction.  How you respond makes all the difference.

2. Identify Your Hot Buttons

We all have things we become more easily upset over.  In other words, we can predict that we are more likely to choose anger in responding to the situation.  When others learn what those those things are, sometimes they will try to make us upset by doing the very thing that almost guarantees a negative reaction.  Identifying these triggers will help you prepare an alternative response and remind you to “chill out”.  What are your “Hot Buttons”?

3. Recognize Your Physical Cues to Anger

Our bodies give us some clear signs when we’re about to “lose it”.  Recognizing these physical cues is the next step to helping yourself overcome angry responses.  Take a look over the list below and identify three physical cues that you exhibit.  If you’re not sure, review the list the next time you get angry.

Physical Cues

  • Shaky/Weak Knees
  • Clenching Fists
  • Sweaty Palms
  • Warm, Red Face
  • Biting down
  • Muscles Tensing Up
  • Butterflies in the Stomach
  • Feeling Speechless or Stuttering

Every person has 3-10 seconds after these physical cues show up before they go into the “Rage Phase”.  In these 3-10 seconds your thinking is clear but the clock starts ticking.  You can teach yourself coping skills so that you know how to calm yourself down in this time frame and change the thoughts that are making you angry.  How many seconds do you have?

3. Choose Coping Skills to Use in the Moment

It’s not just enough to know how much time you have before you move to rage.  Counting down the seconds until you lose it will not help you calm down but coping skills can.  Not only are these skills helpful in the moment (when you try and talk yourself off the ledge) but they can also be used as part of a routine to release stress.

4. Practice

As with anything, practice makes progress.  Yep, I meant what I said.  No one is perfect. Reward positive behavior and celebrate progress.  It can take years to master the skills that I’ve shared but having a caring adult cheer you on and break down the steps certainly helps.  Don’t feel like you need to master this overnight.

This article comes from Jeff Veley’s personal coaching journal from helping at-risk youth in residential treatment programs.  Teaching is partially taken from SAFE DATES, an evidence-based curriculum in which Jeff is a certified facilitator and trainer.

Getting Left Out

Getting Left Out - Dealing with Social Exclusion

by Jeff Veley | Love Changes It All

Responding to Social Exclusion

I remember elementary school all too well.  One re-occurring memory was being left out.  I never was very athletic and if a student was going to pick teams during gym class or for a game on the playground, my name was sure to be the last one called.

As a child it’s extremely difficult to feel left out.  The technical term for it is “social exclusion”. Even adults get offended if they hear of a party that all their friends seemed to attend but they weren’t invited to.  Have you ever seen photos of a wedding posted on social media only to wonder why the bride and groom didn’t invite you?  There’s even organized exclusion such as Costco, Sam’s Club, and gated communities.  You may find this funny, but it’s totally true.

The reality is that as hard as it is to get left out, being excluded is a part of every day life.  In order not to be hurt by exclusion we often have to lower our expectations and understand that not everyone will invite us to their party and not everyone will want to be our friend.  The best way to manage our emotions is by managing our expectations.

If you are wondering why someone might be excluding your child, here are some possible reasons…

1. Your child is doing something to cause it

Did your child do something to offend or anger this person?  Might they have acted in a way that caused them to decide that it would be better to leave them out?  Sometimes the honest truth is that we are the problem and our behavior is pushing others away.  Take a mature assessment and ask if there is any legitimate reason why someone would want to exclude your child.  If so, work with them on recognizing and changing that behavior.  Ask them if there actions are friendly or unfriendly.  Raising their awareness of how they are impacting the situation can certainly help them understand the relationship dynamics.

2. There isn’t enough room

When it comes to social gatherings or groups of friends sometimes we often put a clear limit on how many people we invite or who we invite in an effort to manage the social experience.  A few years ago I invited all of my friends out to dinner for my birthday.  It turned out to be way too many people.  Instead of getting to enjoy dinner and spend quality time with my friends, I spent the evening rushing around trying to greet everyone.  At the end of the night I had only spent a brief moment with each person and I was exhausted.

Now I only invite a few friends and prefer to see others outside of this evening.  It’s not that I want to leave anyone out but that I’d rather invest quality time with a few friends.

3. They are trying to make your child upset

One way people try to bully (or dominate) others is by excluding them and trying to make them feel like no one wants to be their friend.  If you think this is the case, then you must first recognize their motive… they WANT to make your child upset.  If they DO get upset, the other person will succeed/win and your child will lose.  What should your child do?  Choose not to get upset.

Tell your child “Don’t give them the satisfaction of ruining your day.  Instead be calm, brush it off.  Secondly, treat them like a friend.  If you are mean back to them they will see you as an enemy.  Instead, continue being kind to them, no matter what they say.  They will likely feel bad about how they are treating you and may even choose to include you in the future.”

This article was based on the philosophies of Izzy Kalman, NCSP, a leading expert on bullying, who has tirelessly pioneered strategies to help bullying victims for over four decades.  You can learn more about Izzy’s work here.