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How can I set rules for siblings?

My child says I'm "unfair" because I have different rules for his younger brother. What should I do?
Submitted by Parents.com Team

First of all, try not to get angry with your child and say something like "You're right, it's not fair, but that's my decision" -- that'll only discourage open communication. Instead, be sensitive to the fact that most school-age kids equate fairness with sameness, and be prepared to explain the difference. For instance, you might say to your child, "I'm sorry you're upset. I can assure you that your father and I try very hard to treat both you and your brother fairly. That doesn't mean we must treat you in exactly the same way, though. Sometimes, we may seem to be a little less strict with your brother. But that's because he's only 3 and is just learning about right and wrong ways to behave. When you were 3, we treated you the same way we treat him. But you're older now and have had a lot more time to learn, so we now expect more of you. When your brother is your age, we'll expect more of him, too. That's what fair parents do." Besides, you can always point out the advantages of being treated differently -- like having a later bedtime.

Copyright 2009

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

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