Sibling Rivalry and Cohabitation

By Catherine Pearlman

May 7, 2016 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My two daughters constantly complain that I like the other one more. This generally happens when I am reprimanding one of them and not the other. My children get along for the most part, but it hurts me when I hear this complaint. I really try to treat them equally. How can I get them to see that I love them both the same? — Divided Mom

Dear Divided: Your daughters are most likely lashing out because they're frustrated for getting in trouble. Kids use this line when they're hoping to hit a nerve. I bet right after child A says you love child B more, you begin a diatribe on how that isn't true. Bingo. You just ensured that child A will continue to use that tactic.

No parent loves his or her children the same. Many parents don't want to admit such a thing, but it's true. Children don't emerge from the womb in a one-size-fits-all mold. They have different interests and temperaments. Some children need physical contact and reassurance; others feel loved when doing a project with Mom or Dad. You were no doubt a different person by the time you had your second child, so you probably changed as a parent during that time, too. Instead of trying to make everything equal between the children, try and focus on giving each one what she needs, when it's needed. If you do this, you needn't worry about them feeling unloved.

Dear Family Coach: My 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son sleep in separate beds in the same room. This makes the most sense given the logistics of our house, and the kids have always enjoyed rooming together. At what point should we think about giving them their own room? — Happy Home

Dear Happy: There are so many benefits to children sharing a room. Children who share a space learn how to cohabitate. They need to negotiate, communicate and compromise. Such life skills don't come easy for many children, so practicing these on a daily basis puts your kids ahead of the curve. Your children will have an eternal bond that is different from other siblings. They will confide in each another about more private matters. Once they're adults, they'll have an extensive array of shared memories from childhood to keep them close.

If your children were the same sex, I would tell you to let them stay together as long as they both like the arrangement. Even with a boy and a girl, there is no governing rule. However, there is one caveat: Puberty. When children's bodies begin to change and develop, many become more conscious about personal space. It may be exceedingly embarrassing for your son to deal with your daughter's tampons and bras, and for your daughter to deal with your son's and jocksstraps. Sure, accommodations could be made. But it might be easier give them some private space when they begin to hit puberty. Let your children be the guides, and listen if they express a need for their own room.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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