Dear Dr. Bill,
I have 2 daughters, ages 13 and 7, who fight constantly. They are very mean-spirited and are quick to blame each other.
We have talked to them many times about kindness and forgiveness, but nothing ever changes. What should we do?
It’s pretty clear that simply “talking” to your daughters about the problem isn’t working. It’s time to take decisive action.
Tell your girls that you are very concerned about the disrespectful way they treat each other, and that you are going to be implementing some tough new rules in your home. Explain that there are will be immediate consequences when they bicker or make disrespectful comments to each other.
If the girls receive a weekly allowance, tell them that you will be deducting one dollar from their allowance for every violation of the new “respect policy.” Or let them know that you will be taking away favorite toys, activities, or privileges for a period of time. .
Write the new rules and consequences out in the form of a contract, and then have each girl sign the contract and post it on the refrigerator.
Then stick to your guns and implement the consequences, regardless of how the argument began. I’ve found that it’s pointless to get into long discussions about “who started it.” However, given their age difference, the 13-year-old should assume more responsibility than her 7-year-old sister.
Sibling rivalry can also be a cry for attention. Make sure that you and your husband schedule one-on-one time with each girl at least once a week. As you begin to spend individual time with each of the girls, you may begin to notice a significant difference in their behavior.
Thanks for writing Monica. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.