• Parents have got to be willing to be the justice system in the family -- otherwise, it's the law of the jungle: most of the time, kids do not actually work it out among themselves: it's that whoever can hit the hardest or yell the loudest or work the grown-ups most skillfully is the one who prevails.
• Parents create justice in the home through standing for certain values, having clear "house rules," and using a skillful combination of rewards and penalties. For example, think about how the kids have mistreated each other over the past few days, and turn those incidents into rules that would stop them from happening in the future.
Of course, usually you have to back up the rules with consequences, but that's just Parenting 101, and already familiar to us all. The key is naming the rule (e.g., No Hitting. No Grabbing Stuff. No Interrupting. No Put-Downs.) and then getting serious about enforcing it just about every single time.
• Have an attitude of "I AM THE BOSS. I AM IN CHARGE. I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED. I WILL PREVAIL!" That confidence will help sustain your efforts, plus your kids will sense it and be more willing to cooperate.
Rick Hanson is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson is an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and son, ages 12 and 14. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin.
Copyright © Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.