Uncovering the Root of the Problem: Why Siblings Fight

If your days are filled with settling disputes, tattling and mediating disagreements between your children, you are not alone. It is common for siblings to argue and disagree when living in such close proximity. However, you can minimize or put an end to sibling rivalry by uncovering the root of the problem, teaching your children to take responsibility for their actions and settling disagreements civilly.

Why Do Siblings Fight?

Despite what you may think, brotherly or sisterly love does exist, even if your children bicker with each other daily. It’s just sometimes difficult to see past the petty disagreements they have with each other.

According to Jamie Rishikof, Massachusetts-based psychologist, siblings fight because they are thrust into a situation that was not of their choosing. “They live together, face each other every day and have to share a multitude of things, from the most important to the mundane,” he says. “They have to share toys, TVs, the play room and later on the car and the house.”

More important than objects and material items, siblings have to share the love and attention of their parents. “Neither can feel like the sole center of their parents’ lives because they have to share that spot,” says Rishikof.

Siblings also fight because of personality differences. “Just because they came from the same genetics or environment does not in any way ensure they are compatible to cooperate or be friends,” says Rishikof. “Beyond that, even the best of relationships can be strained by living together and constantly negotiating conflicts.”

As your children develop emotionally and socially, they may also struggle with how to deal with conflict management, thus leading to sibling arguments and disagreements. “They are forced to live together from a young age, when it is likely one or both is not yet mature enough to resist impulsive reactions and step back and be more compromising,” says Rishikof. “So for any and all of these reasons, and the fact that there is usually not much opportunity to get a break from each other, sibling rivalry is pretty typical.”

Uncovering the Root of the Problem

As a parent or a nanny, you are often thrust in the middle of sibling rivalry when disagreements occur. In order to manage the conflict, it’s important to first uncover the root of the problem between the siblings.

Rishikof warns against pointing the blame finger right away when mediating arguments. “If a parent observes the whole interaction, he or she can usually be confident about who to blame, but if the parent is not in the room, it can be tempting to guess, but it is my opinion that is unwise,” he says. “Parents cannot be mind readers and they will get two pretty biased versions of the story.”

Instead of playing the blame game, Rishikof suggests parents or nannies take a “both or neither” mentality in these cases. “That way the siblings share responsibility for getting along or repairing when harm is done,” he says.

Parents and nannies should also accept that punishments and consequences can be tricky when biased versions of the story are presented. “Yes, in a single instance there is likely someone getting unjustly punished, but over time and multiple incidents, that is likely to even out,” says Rishikof. “And, it saves the parent the task of playing mind-reader and likely being manipulated by one of the kids.”

Beyond setting expectations for behavior and guidelines for consequences and punishments when your children fight, it may also help to open their eyes to the positive aspects of having a sibling around.

Phrases such as “you and your brother may argue, but if he was not around, who would you play with?” and “it is nice to have someone around when you are lonely, isn’t it?” may help your children see the value of a sibling’s presence.

Promote teamwork, cooperation and respect while encouraging responsibility in settling disagreements. Show your children that they must learn to settle conflicts among themselves by modeling the behavior that is expected in the family home. “The best parents can do is offer mutual rewards that are contingent on learning to settle conflicts among themselves,” says Rishikof. “This offers an incentive to appease the other sibling. The conflicts themselves are pretty unavoidable, but you can impact how they are handled.”

Setting Boundaries With Your Nanny Boss

Even though, as a nanny, it’s crucial for you to immerse yourself with your employing family, there are times when the boundaries can become blurred. If your nanny boss changes his or her mind about discipline or schedules at a moment’s notice, it can wreak havoc on the family environment, your job satisfaction and the level of care you can provide for the children.

To avoid conflicts, uncertainty or confusion, it’s best to set boundaries with your nanny boss right away. This will help keep the peace in the household and provide an optimal environment for the children.

The Challenges of Blurred Boundaries

It’s common for parents, even nanny bosses, to change their mind at times. However, if your nanny boss is lacking consistency and it undermines your efforts, it can lead to a breakdown in the family environment.

“The most common challenge is how boundaries can change depending on the mood of the parent or the situation, says Vicki Hoefle, professional parent educator and founder of Duct Tape Parenting, a proactive parenting strategy. “The parents may have set the boundaries but then they leave it up to the nanny to enforce them. It is not uncommon in these scenarios for parents to disregard the boundaries and spoil the child because the nanny has been doing a bang up job with enforcing the boundaries.”

When boundaries are too rigid or too loose, you may feel as if you are playing a guessing game to determine how rules should be applied.

Approaching the Topic

In order to avoid conflict with a nanny boss, Hoefle recommends nannies ask questions to clarify the use of boundaries. Set up a meeting time to review the expectations, rules and boundaries so that all parties can agree on a parenting method for the children. “This will help establish both clear boundaries and expectations and future conversations,” she says.

For example, nannies can ask their bosses the following to gain clarification:

  • What is the goal for setting this boundary?
  • What is it you want your child to learn by setting this boundary?
  • Is this a safety boundary?
  • How rigid do you want me to be in enforcing this boundary?
  • Are there ever any circumstances where you would want me to disregard this boundary?
  • How would you like me to deal with the child if he or she resists or fights against this boundary?

While asking questions, reassure your nanny boss that clarification is key to providing the best care for his or her children.

Determining the Boundaries

It’s important for nannies to create a list of specific boundaries needing to be addressed, such as:

  • Food and Feeding
  • Sleep and Bedtimes
  • Toilet Training
  • Hitting, Biting (basic discipline)
  • Clothing
  • Homework for Older Children
  • Playtime and Cleanup

Create a book of notes or a nanny binder to document all instructions so you have a reference point. If conflicts occur with your nanny boss, you can point back to the original instructions and ask for clarification for how the boundaries have changed or will change.

Find ways, too, to institute a consistent routine that will work for both the children and your nanny boss. Establishing a routine for the child can make it easier for the nanny to implement permanent boundaries, says Hoefle.

A sample routine may be similar to the following to meet the child’s basic needs:

  • 7:00 a.m.: Wake up (allow child to decide how he or she will wake up)
  • 7:30 a.m.: Dressed before coming downstairs (allow the child to pick out outfit)
  • 7:45 a.m.: Eating at the table with two choices for breakfast (allow the child to help make breakfast and then clean up)
  • 8:15 a.m.: Brush Teeth and Make Bed

Children crave routines and will soon learn the boundaries set by the nanny and the parents. “One can see where the natural boundaries will be if there is an overall routine in place to support the healthy physical and emotional wellbeing of the child,” says Hoefle. And, with clarification from your nanny boss, the boundaries will no longer leave you guessing.

Stop the Stock Up: Risks of Buying in Bulk

When you’re caring for a large family or living on a budget, buying in bulk may seem like the perfect solution to save a few bucks. But, the reality is that many common household items and foods to feed your family are not always the best to buy in bulk.

In fact, the appeal of buying in bulk can leave you strapped for cash with overloading pantries and cupboards of unneeded items. Learn how to save on your most-used items and get the best bang for your buck when shopping at bulk stores. You may even find yourself resisting the urge to “go bulk.”

How to Conquer the Bulk Buy Temptations

Although a month’s supply of toilet paper, chips or fruit juices may seem like a bargain, the urge to buy more than what you need in bulk can put a serious dent in your pocketbook. The temptation to fill your cart with unnecessary items can take over if you’re not careful.

Instead of splurging on those flashy items on display, stick to a strict list, suggests Kevin Gallegos, consumer finance expert at Freedom Financial Network in San Mateo, Calif. “Stick with frequent-purchase items and stay away from items you use infrequently,” says Gallegos. Although you may find a great deal on carpet shampoo or freezer bags in bulk, you may be tying up money that could be better spent on items you use on a daily basis.

Keep cash on hand to resist the temptation to overspend when frequenting warehouse and bulk stores, says Gallegos. “To get the most from bulk buying and not overspend, learn to create and use a simple budget that includes categories for basic areas of spending,” he suggests. “Before you shop, determine what your monthly allocation is for these categories, make a list and then go to the store.”

Take the determined amount of cash with you so you avoid overspending by purchasing a cart full of items you may not use. “With bulk buying, realize that you might spend two months worth of budget for some items,” says Gallegos. “Just make sure to allocate appropriately in your budget so you don’t overspend next month.”

Even though it may appear that bigger is better when walking into a bulk store, narrow down your potential buys by choosing a smaller cart. There are often sneaky ways stores can tempt you to buy more. If you are toting a small basket or mini cart, you will not be able to overdo it at the warehouse club.

Look Beyond Bulk Options

Savings come in many forms, so it’s best to do your research before heading to any store. For example, if you want the best buy on fresh fruits and vegetables, scope out the local farms and farmers’ markets to get the most bang for your buck. “Farmers and ranchers often will be able to offer excellent prices and savings on large quantities,” says Gallegos. “If you don’t need perfect-looking fruit, maybe for baking, cooking, canning or just eating, ask about ‘B’ fruit or bruised boxes. ‘B’ doesn’t mean sub-par in taste or vitamins – these ‘B’ or bruised fruits can be up to half off and taste just as good.”

Grocery stores can also offer items in bulk if you need to stock up on large quantities for your family. “Often, retailers of any kind will be able to provide bulk pricing upon request for certain items,” says Gallegos.

In addition, many grocery stores offer double or triple coupon days so you can maximize your savings. Sign up for e-coupons online or register for manufacturer coupons on items you use frequently. Coupons are definitely worth cutting, says Teri Gault, CEO and founder of The Grocery Game, an online grocery savings website.

“It’s all about timing with coupons,” says Gault. “People get discouraged with coupons, mostly because they don’t know when to use them. A lot of people cut a few coupons and go to the store, only to find out that it is cheaper to buy a different item without the coupon.”

The key to using coupons successfully is to stack the deals. The sale plus a manufacturer coupon plus a store coupon plus register rewards equate to great savings, says Gault. “That’s called stacking the deals, and most stores allow some sort of stacking, especially with a sale,” says Gault.

Check your weekly circular for the best buys on meat, produce and household items, too.

7 Habits of Successful Nannies

It’s hard to define exactly what traits a nanny should have because different caregivers work best in different situations. A proactive, take charge nanny may be perfect for Family A, but come off as bossy to Family B. A nanny who has a gentle discipline approach may be a wonderful compliment to Family A’s parenting approach, but be in direct opposition to Family B’s parenting approach. However, even though there isn’t a set list of personality traits that every great nanny has, there are certain habits that successful nannies share.

  • They have a genuine love and enjoyment of kids. Every nanny job, regardless of the specific job description, focuses on the child. For a nanny to be truly successful in her position, she has to love the core component of her work. She must get real enjoyment from spending her days with her charge and be able to make a deep and lasting connection with him. That relationship is what matters the most, it’s what gets her through the hard times and motivates her to do her best each and every day.
  • They understand and accept the unique aspects of working as a nanny. Working in a private home is different than being in a family care center or working in a daycare. There are challenges that a nanny faces that no other type of childcare provider does. The successful nanny accepts this as part of the job. She doesn’t spend time railing against the things she’s missing out on, like a regular, kid-free lunch break or a co-worker to share responsibilities with. She feels the unique benefits of the job far out way the unique difficulties.
  • They approach challenges with a positive attitude. Seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty is a key trait of a successful nanny. She’s able to take challenges with both her charge and her employers in stride and work towards finding solutions that work for everyone involved. She doesn’t get bogged down in the things that have or could go wrong. Instead, she focuses on what has and could go right.
  • They respect the parents’ rights and preferences. Part of being a nanny is bringing your expertise to the job. A quality caregiver can offer spot on advice and resources for behavior issues and ages and stages transitions. However, a successful nanny recognizes that although she’s a childcare professional with a lot to offer, ultimately the parents have the right to parent how they want. She fully supports their choices and preferences, even when they differ from her own. She offers her expertise with the expectation that the parents will take what’s useful to them and leave the rest. And she’s fine with that.
  • They’re natural problem solvers. Being a successful nanny is all about being able to deal effectively with the ongoing flow of problems you face throughout the day. How should you deal with a two year old who’s throwing a temper tantrum? Should you wash Bunny before naptime and deal with the backlash or try and sneak her out once your charge is asleep? What are you going to make for lunch now that Rover has stolen the last of the turkey off the counter? Successful nannies don’t get bogged down by the issues that pop up throughout the day. They simply find a workable solution and get back to the work of having fun.
  • They don’t take things personally. The nanny/family relationship is a tough one. There are many things employers do and say that, if taken personally, can leave their nanny feeling angry, frustrated, unappreciated or taken advantage of. A successful nanny recognizes that her employers’ slights are usually about something that’s happening with the employer rather than with the nanny. If Mom forgets to say thank you for running a last minute errand, the successful nanny assumes it’s because Mom has a lot on her mind and not because she’s unappreciative of the extra effort. If Dad comes home 10 minutes late, the successful nanny assumes traffic was heavy or the train was late rather than thinking Dad doesn’t value her time.
  • They communicate effectively with their employers. Good communication is the foundation of the nanny/parent relationship. A successful nanny is able to bring issues to her employer, clearly articulate what the problem is and how she feels about it, and actively problem solve with her employer. She doesn’t let things pile up. Instead, she’s proactive about working through problems as they arise.

How to Successfully Set Up a Nanny Share

A Brooklyn couple moved into a new building while awaiting the birth of their first child, only to bump into another couple two floors down with a due date just weeks away from their own. As the couples chatted, they commiserated over the difficulty of finding great nanny care without wiping out their finances. As the babies’ arrivals grew closer, one family mentioned hearing about a nanny share concept, where two families could split the cost of a single nanny. This arrangement offered a significant savings, even after bumping up the childcare rate to compensate for a second child. Soon, a plan was born, along with two bouncing baby boys.

Even though the two families had tons in common – similar jobs with similar hours, similar backgrounds, similar ages and even apartments with the same layout – there were many considerations to make when ironing out the logistics of the arrangement.

Here are a few things to think about when setting up a successful nanny share:

Location, Location, Location

One of the first considerations needs to be which family will host the nanny share arrangement. With babies and small children, routine is key. It makes little sense to go back and forth between homes – even if those homes happen to be in the same building. The host family will have a slightly greater responsibility in providing the space and ensuring it is always prepared for the nanny and children, though the other family will sacrifice their child staying on home turf and may need to purchase additional baby gear for convenience. If one family has pets or has someone in the house who smokes, this could also be a deciding factor.

Sick Days

A traditional one family nanny may often care for a sick child, but if there are health risks such as fever or potential infections and viruses, it isn’t fair to expose the healthy child. Who will receive the care in such situations and what the threshold for cancellation is needs to be worked out in advance so that the parents know who is responsible for finding backup care. A backup plan should also include protocol for if the child receiving care that day is not the hosting family’s child.


There is a great deal of trust involved in choosing a nanny share option. Families need to be honest about their future plans and what their expectations are for how long the share should last. A nanny offering this type of arrangement might be doing so for the higher financial return, so if one family backs out the other might be left scrambling for a replacement or face losing the nanny (or paying the big bucks to keep her). Perhaps the plan is for the nanny to care for the infants until they reach preschool age. What happens if a new sibling enters the picture in one of the families? Upfront planning can ease the stress for everyone.

Money Matters

Nannies should be paid legally. It is the law, and both parties need to agree to this to avoid tax issues and liabilities in the event of injury on the job. Benefits and paid days off also need to be agreed to by all parties involved. Extraneous costs, such as petty cash for outings or unforeseen needs, should be worked out in advance so that one family doesn’t resent bearing all the responsibility. If a vehicle will be used, costs and insurances need to be discussed, as there may be tax breaks for the owner of the car. Families need to ensure no further licenses or oversight needs have to be addressed due to two unrelated children being cared for, since this might technically bump the home nanny into a group care category.


As with any nanny relationship, families need to discuss how certain things will be handled according to their own values. The nanny share involves two families’ potentially disparate way of doing things, so discuss in advance things like eating habits, food allergies or restrictions, media use and napping to present the nanny with a unified plan of how to proceed. Discipline and rewards need to be consistent for the arrangement to be successful, particularly when the two children enter toddlerhood and the preschool years.