Hello, Conscious Parent! Welcome to “Dear Katherine,” a monthly Q&A with real-life parents/caregivers. If you’d like to submit a question of your own, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My wife and I have two children, ages 10 and 7. Our older daughter feels that we let our younger son “get away with” things that she wouldn’t have gotten away with.
Because our daughter feels so strongly about this conviction, she has taken it upon herself to discipline her younger brother on her own. She’ll hit him or yell at him when he does something that she feels she would have been disciplined for at his age.
What can we do? We’ve enrolled in your course and are hopeful about our new parenting strategies—including our improved outlook on discipline—but this situation isn’t healthy for either child.
Stuck in the Middle
Dear Stuck in the Middle,
I’m sorry to hear that your daughter is navigating such difficult feelings. That must be tough for all of you.
It sounds like your daughter harbors some resentment for the way she used to receive discipline when she was younger. Now, she codes discipline as a one-flavor concept that revolves around instilling fear or punishment—and she applies that thinking to her interactions with her younger brother.
That resentment your daughter is feeling is an unmet need, manifesting into the actions you’re seeing. No child wants to feel like they’re being treated differently from their sibling, especially if they perceive a disparity in who gets away with certain behaviors and who gets punished.
Your daughter can and will get to the other side of this situation. But three things need to happen first:
- Consistency. Change is only possible with consistent action. As you work through the course, your parenting style will change. Your daughter will gradually feel safe enough to let her guard down—but your own behavior, and how you deal with hers, has to be consistent every time.
- Time. There’s a rule of thumb that for every year of a child’s life, it takes them one week to adjust and overcome resentment. In your 10-year-old daughter’s case, this rule suggests that she’ll need 10 weeks of consistent action before she can let go of her old beliefs about discipline.
- Communication. Your daughter needs open and honest dialogue with her parents. Share your thoughts with her—and be ready to listen to what she has to say.
Stuck in the Middle, I know this obstacle seems insurmountable at the moment, but I promise you can, and will, overcome it. There’s no growth without a bit of growing pain. Your children will adjust with you as long as you’re consistent in your methods, so hang in there. You’re on the right track.
Love and Blessings,
P.S. Save the Date! November 16th I’ll be reappearing on Episode 161 of the Real Happy Mom podcast! I was so happy to speak with Toni-Ann again – this time talking about diffusing fights with your children. Listen to my first appearance, Episode 103 Communication Hacks for Peaceful Parenting, here.