Q: My kids, a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, are constantly fighting over everything. They are always yelling, screaming, threatening, hitting, and taking each other's belongings in retaliation. They both have to be right and they both have to have the last word. I’ve tried separation, time outs, sending them to their rooms, removing privileges, grounding, talking it through, and even therapy. But nothing gets through to them, and I’ve been dealing with it for over a year. I'm at my wit's end.
A: Siblings need to be taught to be each other’s best friend. And positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement in most sibling situations. Sit down with both kids and set up a "best friends club." To be in the club, they have to be each other’s best friend. Establish the rules: being nice to each other, no hitting, no tattling, hugging each other after a disagreement, and even defending each other to their parents. However, defending each other should never include lying to protect their best friend; the truth is always important. Try to minimize asking them about each other’s actions so they are not put in a position to rat out their best friend. Plus, being in the club will lead to special rewards and treats. Each day of being a best friend brings a special weekend event, outing, favorite meal, extra time with favorite TV shows, family movie nights, etc. Best friends have more fun together than sibling rivals , so show them how much fun it can be.