Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review August 23, 2005 / 18 Av 5765

Betsy Hart

Betsy Hart
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Trying to keep the peace with four little ones | As the end of summer approaches, my kids having been out of school and spending time together for some two months now, I'm reminded again that there's a reason I have written over the years about all sorts of parenting issues, but rarely about sibling relations. It's because there are times when my four kids head for each other's throats and I just think — wow. Now what do I do?

Every once in a while I'll test my conviction that children really are sinful little creatures. One child will come to me with a complaint about another, and I'll suggest the offending child be dropped off on the highway somewhere for good. I keep hoping the "victimized" child will recoil in horror at the notion. But inevitably the "wronged" little one thinks dumping the sib is a great idea.


I don't remember a whole lot in the way of sibling rivalry back when I was little. I think that's because my four older siblings were so unified against their baby sister that I didn't stand a chance against them, so I didn't even bother.

(They would argue that I so manipulated our parents that it took four of them to stand up to one of me, but who's to say whose memory is correct?)

Anyway, flash forward, and now I'm trying to keep the peace with my own four little ones. I sometimes think my mother is watching from heaven — and laughing hysterically.

I have learned one thing for sure: To be incredibly grateful for the times when my kids are getting along, playing well together or in any way whatsoever enjoying each other. Those moments really are little pieces of heaven on Earth — and I let them know it.

But as I think any parent of more than one child knows, those moments can end in a moment, too.

So here's what I often tell my kids, particularly the older ones, hoping it will sink in sometime in the next 20 years: That G-d put each child into this family for a purpose and for the good of the other children. Sometimes that "good" might even come through suffering — and through having the opportunity to learn to get along with people when those people can be difficult.

I teach them that love is in the "doing," not just in the feeling. So even if one doesn't "feel" love at the moment for the child who took her candy (understandably), they are still called to do good to each other.

And I have a rule — which gets broken all the time — but it's still a good rule: If one child is feeling offended by a sib, he or she has to try to resolve it with the offender first before coming to me. So if one little one approaches me full of indignation over some kind of "assault" by another, usually the first thing I'll say is (if I don't start with the highway suggestion), "Have you already talked to your sister/brother about this?"

Donate to JWR

And one thing I really try to do — hoping this will sink in eventually — is to help them learn to be grateful for the good things that happen to others, particularly their siblings. For instance, if one child is invited to a birthday party, that does not mean another is "owed" some sort of good time, too, or a promise that she will surely be invited to a birthday party soon. It means we're happy for the one who got the neat invitation. Period.

Imagine how much happier we would all be if we could learn early on to find happiness — instead of resentment — in the good fortune of others.

Of course, there are times when all else fails, it's been a long day and they are still being "The Bickersons" — or worse. That's when I remind myself that parenting is about persevering in doing what we believe to be right for our kids even when, especially when, we might not see the fruit of that perseverance for a long time.

And when it really gets bad, I just send them to bed early and hope that with a little extra rest — for me, at least — the next day will be better. I also remind myself that the start of school is just around the corner.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

"It Takes a Parent : How the Culture of Pushover Parenting is Hurting Our Kids — and What to Do About It"  

"Hart urges parents to focus...on instilling industry, frugality, sincerity and humility. She encourages parents to reclaim the word "no." Contrary to advice you may have received, you needn't give your child choices, or offer alternatives, or explain to little Suzie why she can't eat eight cookies right before bed-you're the parent, and sometimes you can just say no."

  —   Kirkus Reports

Sales help fund JWR.

JWR contributor Betsy Hart, a frequent commentator on CNN and the Fox News Channel, can be reached by clicking here.


Betsy Hart Archives

© 2005, Scripps Howard News Service