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When a Sibling Interferes With a Consequence

Question

Our 6 year old son threw a huge tantrum after school in front of a lot of people, thus enforcing a consequence of all his toys being taken away as well as early bedtime. Our dilemma in following through with this consequence is that we also have 8 year old son who plays with those toys as well, and now he's upset because he thinks he's getting punished even though he didn't misbehave. How do we enforce the consequence on our younger son without affecting our older one? This has happened a few times before, and those times we've let our 8 year old play with the toys, but he ends up sharing them with our 6 year old because he feels sorry that our 6 year old doesn't get to play with anything.

Answer

Greetings and thanks for letting us help you with your challenge. Great job for the follow through with your six year old’s tantrum. The shared toy dilemma can be resolved by keeping the toys in one area that is off limits to the children. You maintain control of them by checking one toy in and out like the library checks out books. Clearly explain to both children that if they continue to allow their sibling to play with their checked out toy when either one of them loses their toy privilege, then that consequence will result in no toy privilege for the offending sibling, twice as long. Do not allow your eight year old to break you down when you must exert your authority. It may take some organization to get started, but I guarantee that any chaos of toy sharing will be nicely resolved.

Gretchen Slover, Psy.D., LMFT
drgretchenslover.com

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