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259: Hunt, Gather, Parent Your Family: Resolving Sibling Rivalry (Part 1)

So many folks sign up for coaching or come to my free calls desperate to get their kids to stop fighting with their siblings. When our beloved kiddos are at each others throats, it sends our stress levels through the roof. What if told you that sibling rivalry isn’t inevitable? In fact, the way siblings antagonize each other in our families is almost unheard of in many other cultures.

When Michaeleen Doucleff and I get behind the mic, you know you’re in for a meaty conversation. Join us for part one as we get a global perspective on sibling rivalry, and how to start directing that energy into whole family solidarity.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  1. How our expectation of sibling rivalry is out of step with how siblings treat each other in so many other cultures.
  2. The ways we set up older kids to experience adversarial reactions to a younger sibling.
  3. How to build a sense of camaraderie and mutual responsibility among your kiddos and your whole family.

And much more! 

As always, thanks for listening. Head over to Facebook, where you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community. We post tips and tools and do pop-up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!


About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

Randi’s Web and Social Links

About Our Guest

Michaleen Doucleff is an award-winning global health correspondent and the author of Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans.

Links & Resources

Thanks so much for listening to the Mastermind Parenting podcast, where we support the strong willed child and the families that love them!

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[00:00:00] Randi Rubenstein: Please understand that it’s complicated, because sibling fighting is really all about humans resolving conflicts and, um, I don’t know about you. Like, are you, are you amazing at conflict resolution in your own life?

[00:00:18] Michaeleen Doucleff: No, I mean, I’ve definitely improved in the last, I think I was horrible, like F, D minus like five years ago, but I would give myself like a B plus now. 

[00:00:29] But I also, I think it’s about conflict resolution, but I also think it’s about the family culture. and I think the reason why it’s hard to start there is because it speaks to the, I don’t want to use the word rules, but the like, overarching principles of the way the family is run. 

[00:00:49] Randi Rubenstein: My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast. At Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. 

[00:01:00] Welcome, welcome, welcome. Can’t you tell that I listen to podcasts way too much because that is literally the way Dax Shepard opens, I think, every Armchair Expert. And I haven’t even listened to that podcast in a long time. Anyway. Hi everyone, welcome to this week’s episode. This is going to be another two parter with my new… I don’t want to call her bestie because I think it’s like a, you know, when you become friends with someone, but like you’re a little bit worried that you might like them more than they like you? That’s what’s going on with me and Michaeleen Doucleff. 

[00:01:38] I’m obsessed with her and I, yes, I do tend to get obsessed with people that I believe, people that are authentic, people that are the opposite of, you know, someone who stands for perfectionism and performative, like she’s so real. She’s teaching me things. I’m just loving my conversations with her so much and, um… 

[00:02:07] Lindsey who works with me, who’s my coworker and she – I don’t ever listen to any of these podcasts because I think I would just, I don’t know, get sick of myself and so I just don’t. I just want to be authentic with you guys. And so I don’t listen to these episodes back, but Lindsey listens to everything. It goes through a whole channel with my podcast producer and Lindsey, my coworker, she listens to everything I record in all my groups, all my podcasts, because I have a private podcast too, and, and so God bless Lindsey. She listens to everything. 

[00:02:41] So Lindsey, she listened to this two part episode, this conversation with me and MIchaeleen. And she usually waits for the podcast producer to send it to her for her to listen to, but Lindsey knew I had recorded it and she went behind the scenes and she listened to it before it even went to anyone else because she was so excited. She’s like, I can’t get enough of these conversations. And so she couldn’t wait for like, the next week when they sent it to her. And so she listened to it like the day after. 

[00:03:17] And I thought it was weird because she was giving me feedback. She was like sending me messages, oh, I loved this part and I love that part. And once the conversation’s done, I don’t remember all of it. So I didn’t even know exactly what she was talking about. 

[00:03:29] So my introduction to this two part episode, all about sibling rivalry and sibling fighting. And we talk about lots of different things. That’s our main topic. Lindsey said she did not want it to end, that she learned some things and she’s been, she’s been my coworker for six years. She’s listened to so much. I mean, literally she sometimes can teach the concepts that I teach better than I can, but she felt like she was learning new information and new content. 

[00:04:05] So this is part one of my conversation with Michaelene Doucleff, the, the author of Hunt, Gather, Parent. I don’t know why I’m tripping over that. I’ve only said it a million times at this point. Hold on to your seats because I think this is a really good one. Enjoy.

[00:04:23] Okay. I am here once again with Michaelene Doucleff and the topic today is sibling fighting. Sibling fighting. how do you feel about this topic?

[00:04:35] Michaeleen Doucleff: Me? Oh, I’m excited because I’ve, I wanted a chapter in, in Hunt, Gather, Parent about this topic, but I ended up just not having time and the book was already too long. And so, but so I’m super excited. I mean, everybody asks me this, right? There’s like three questions everybody asks, and this is definitely one of them. So I’m excited to talk about it. I think it’s great. 

[00:04:56] Randi Rubenstein: Uh, when people people come in to my programs and they immediately start asking about the sibling stuff, I’m a kind of like, oh, because I know it’s complicated and… .. it’s almost like I want to say like, okay, 

[00:05:15] I know this is the hottest topic right now for you. And also, please understand that it’s complicated, because sibling fighting is really all about humans resolving conflicts and, um, I don’t know about you. Like, are you, are you amazing at conflict resolution in your own life?

[00:05:39] Michaeleen Doucleff: No, I mean, I’ve definitely improved in the last, I think I was horrible, like F, D minus like five years ago, but I would give myself like a B plus now. 

[00:05:50] But I also, I think it’s about conflict resolution, but I also think it’s about the family culture. And I think that it’s, and I think the reason why it’s hard to start there is because it speaks to the, I don’t want to use the word rules, but the like, overarching principles of the way the, the family is run.

[00:06:13] And I think if, if you start to shift those and maybe through like sibling rivalry and working on sibling, sibling rivalry, you can shift those. 

[00:06:24] But when you start to shift the, the family culture, the rules, the expectations, what’s, tolerated and what’s not and how we think of each other and each other’s roles in our lives. Then I think a lot of the sibling rivalry resolves. 

[00:06:42] And that’s what I saw when I was traveling was that the families and the parents had a culture that almost just wasn’t conducive to sibling rivalry. In fact, it was the other. It was fostering and creating sibling cooperation, which clearly stems from parent/child cooperation, right?

[00:07:07] So that’s why maybe why it’s hard to start there, because if the parent isn’t cooperating with the child, then you can’t expect the children to cooperate. But once you start fostering this culture of cooperation versus competition, then what I saw is that this… this isn’t a problem in many parts of the world. 

[00:07:24] I know that sounds crazy, but, but like, it’s just not. Like, one of the researchers in the Maya village the first time I went down to the Yucatan said to me, well, the kids just don’t fight. And I was like, okay. I have them on tape. I’m like, okay, they clearly fight because all kids fight. And she’s like, no, they just don’t fight. No, they just don’t do it. 

[00:07:41] And I was just like, well, why? And then I started to learn it’s because, you know, there’s this whole other way of the parent treating the child, which then gets kind of trickled down to the child treating the other child, right? 

[00:07:55] Randi Rubenstein: You just explained why I get that feeling of dread when people come in and they’re like, here’s my biggest fire. And, you know, I like to say I’m going to teach you how to fish, you know, that old proverb of rather than just giving you fish dinners, I’m going to teach you how to fish and then you can feed yourself for life. Right? 

[00:08:16] So when someone comes in with, with the sibling thing, I know that, that is a program that I teach that is like five programs down the line of programs. And where they come in, I, you know, they’re, they’re in my basics program. And it’s like, okay, let’s just put a pin in that sibling thing and let’s focus on the basics. Exactly what you just said. 

[00:08:41] Because, so much is going to shift and change, because your whole family culture is going to shift and change. We’re going to, we’re going to really sort of set a new foundation here. And so, by the time you advance to the sibling fighting program, you may find that it’s just really not a big issue anymore. Because your, you know, the foundation has been rebuilt. 

[00:09:10] Michaeleen Doucleff: Exactly. I think it’s about moving from a controlling, competitive culture to moving to a collaborating cooperation culture, right? And, yeah, I mean, that’s what I saw everywhere we went. You know, it is, is absolutely true. The kids, you know, there are tiffs, you know, but they don’t, they, they want to work together with each other and help each other and take responsibility for each other and care about.

[00:09:35] And I want to say that. When we were living in San Francisco, um, I saw this, this sibling relationship in some of the communities there. So, I mean, it is absolutely possible in America. It’s just, it just, it really comes from the parents doing a couple of things differently, and setting expectations differently, I think. 

[00:09:58] Randi Rubenstein: On my coaching call yesterday, I was coaching a mom about a sibling issue. And she had been processing it in her accountability group separately. And so when I was coaching her on it, Lindsey, who, you know, works with me, Lindsey’s like, okay, there’s a plot twist. I wasn’t expecting it to go there. 

[00:10:18] Because her two kids were fighting. It was actually a really cute fight, like it was actually freaking adorable, um, which I know it’s not adorable when you’re in it, but like me as a third party looking at it? 

[00:10:32] So she’s got these two kids, and they both love reading. And right now, her son, who’s six, is six, seven, maybe seven, is really into the Dog Man series and, and the mom, the mom is a pediatrician. Okay. So she like, she knows a thing. Right. 

[00:10:52] So the mom, so he, she’s like, I’m not crazy about the Dog Man series, but whatever. So her little boy loves this Dog Man series and he got the books for his birthday or something. And he loves him so much that he wants to share them with other kids at school.

[00:11:06] So he takes them to school, but he’s devised this library system where other kids can check the books out from him. They give him two pennies, 

[00:11:17] Michaeleen Doucleff: Aw.

[00:11:17] Randi Rubenstein: then, and then when they check the back, the book back in, he gives the two pennies back. Like he came up with this by himself.

[00:11:26] Michaeleen Doucleff: I love it. I love it.

[00:11:27] Randi Rubenstein: How frigging adorable is that? Okay. Okay. 

[00:11:29] So, so, so older sister, voracious reader. She’s nine. And two minutes before it’s time to leave, mom and dad both have to get to work, crazy last two minutes. And she says, I have one of your books in my backpack, one of your Dog Man books.

[00:11:46] And the younger brother says, I don’t want you to take it. I don’t want you to take it to school. And she says, too bad, so sad. I’m taking it And digs her heels in. And before you know it, it starts to escalate. 

[00:12:03] And because the little boy, he’s like, she won’t listen to me. She won’t hear a word or hear my words. And she, she goes to, he goes to ask mom to intervene. So mom intervenes and says, listen, you’re going to have to, and she knows older sister can get pretty physical and aggressive with younger brother.

[00:12:20] And so she does, she’s just like, okay, so here’s the deal. And older sister’s like, yeah, I’m taking them. I don’t care. And she starts to like, you know, lose her mind a little bit, you know, says something, you know, I hate you, shut up, whatever, whatever, whatever. It escalates. And then sister grabs the book and smacks brother in the head with the book.

[00:12:44] Michaeleen Doucleff: Mm hmm.

[00:12:45] Randi Rubenstein: Okay. So there’s the scenario. What are your thoughts?

[00:12:51] Michaeleen Doucleff: So my first thought as you were talking was, I think it’s very interesting that they’re arguing over property, which is very common in our society to argue over property. And I think that there’s something that I saw everywhere we went is that parents teach children from a very young age, even when it’s not it family, right? So even when it’s a neighbor or cousin or, when you’re with other kids, you don’t bring something out. You don’t have something, a toy, a book, whatever, unless it’s going to be shared.

[00:13:28] And I know that this isn’t exactly what you’re talking about. There’s some other things going on here, but I think there’s this… I think a lot of conflict that I see with children is over property, and we teach children at a very young age what it means to have your property versus my property, and I think this is very important in our society, that it’s property, and we could talk about this forever, but what I have found and what I’ve seen is that when children are taught from a very young age that, if you have something and it’s out and multiple people see it, it is for everybody to share. And if you don’t want that, you have to take it away. You have to go somewhere where there aren’t other kids. 

[00:14:15] So, one of the things we say is like, if you show it, you share it. Like, it’s the opposite of what we’re taught, right? Show and tell, right? And, and it comes from this, you know, this idea in Indigenous cultures of we’re always looking back to the group. Right, where it’s a very, it’s kind of the opposite of individualism. Right. 

[00:14:34] And so I think that a lot of sibling rivalry, a lot of sibling conflict comes from this where we’re, we’re very defensive of this is yours, and this is mine. And this is Bobby’s and this is Julie’s and, but at the end of the day, children, especially the family unit, is made to share and use these things, as a family, as a team.

[00:14:59] And so, for me, I would start to rethink a little bit about, like, what’s the role of property in this family? And, like, is there a way of… reassessing and re kind of starting over a little bit and being like, we’re going to have a new way of thinking about our prop our individual property. And I mean, this might be really hard and might not be the place to start, but like, for the, the things that, that we have out in the open and we’re, we’re using, then we share. And I think that there’s, I would start to, like, re kind of discuss that aspect of it. 

[00:15:37] Because the, the child is using this property as like, almost like a tool of conflict. And what it, like, one of the moms in the Arctic said to me, like, we would never let a piece of property interfere with our relationships And when she said this, I was like, okay, I let property interfere with my relationship with Rosie like every day, right?

[00:15:58] That’s what so much of the conflict is about. You’re going to break this. You’re going to take this. This is mine. This is yours. And I think it really got me thinking, like, you know, what’s more important, my relationship with Rosie or the sister’s relationship with her brother or her relationship with her mom or this book? And somehow this book has become more important than all three of them. 

[00:16:21] Randi Rubenstein: It’s so true because older sister, who quite often.. I have a term, I call it the wronger, the wronger rule. It’s based on Larry David, like, you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm? So every single episode is about some wrongdoing that happens, but then Larry takes it up a notch and he ultimately becomes wronger. And then all you focus on Larry being wronger because he’s so outlandish and ridiculous. But the truth is something wrong happened. He just handled it in a way where he ultimately became wronger. Right? like, like 

[00:17:03] Michaeleen Doucleff: Double down 

[00:17:04] Randi Rubenstein: You know, he’s in, he’s in the elevator going to his doctor’s appointment and then when the door opens He lets the woman go out before him and she goes and she signs in instead of letting him sign in first and or say when they call the people on the list, his, even though his appointment came before her, she didn’t say, oh, it’s okay. He was here at the same time as me, I just signed in first. And so she takes his appointment and then, it’s the end of the day and the doctor says, well, I ran out of time. Sorry, you’re going to have to reschedule your appointment. So he’s pissed because he was so polite that he let her out of the elevator and she didn’t return the politeness.

[00:17:45] Michaeleen Doucleff: Right.

[00:17:46] Randi Rubenstein: Right? Like, and you’re like, well, he kind of has a point. I mean, he kind of has a point, but he, because he takes it up a notch and because he’s so rude and obnoxious, all anyone can focus on is whoever became the wrongest. 

[00:18:01] And so like this sister quite often, like she is the Larry David. Younger brother is hoarding property. He has a system in place that he’s sharing with kids at school, and he has been actually sharing with her at home. But now all of a sudden he’s gonna like, he’s gonna pull his own weight or seek power to let her know that they’re actually his books.

[00:18:30] And so he, he sort of trumps her, right? And he’s like, well, you can’t take them to school. And so then it becomes a power struggle between the two of them over property. Right. But he ultimately, like little brother was the one that started it. And she unfortunately just Larry David it and became wronger by smacking him upside the head.

[00:18:52] And. 

[00:18:53] Michaeleen Doucleff: I think it’s, instead of like, okay, how do we resolve this conflict? It’s like, why is this a source of conflict? Like, who cares if she has the book? You know, I mean, like, like, that’s what I’m saying. Like, we put so much emphasis on like, this is my property versus your property. And this is like, that we lose sight of the fact that maybe it doesn’t matter at all. And maybe the mom shouldn’t really care as much as she does or like, this conflict is being made over something that in a lot of places in the world, it would not be made over. 

[00:19:21] Randi Rubenstein: I think what happened when I coached the mom ultimately what ended up coming out and this is what they all thought was a plot twist was that… and mom actually came to the conclusion that she was being controlling by even getting involved in the way that she did. Right. And so…

[00:19:40] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah. I agree with that. 

[00:19:42] Randi Rubenstein: Right, so she was like, yeah, I was being controlling. I think I got involved where I really actually didn’t really need to get involved. And since the two kids were already power struggling over property, now all of a sudden when mom gets it, gets involved, it sort of like intensified the whole situation and then older sister, you know, then it got physical. 

[00:20:04] Michaeleen Doucleff: I think by the mom getting involved, she’s almost, she’s giving credibility to this idea that this is my property versus your property. I think this would be something I would leave alone, I would not make a big deal about, I would toss off, and if the younger one is still upset about it later, or even if he’s not, I would talk to him about it and be like, look, you know, or even talk to both of them, maybe not at the same time of like, look, we’re family, we share our books. This is not your book. This is, we share our books. 

[00:20:35] So in many parts the world where the family culture is collaborative and cooperative, everything is shared, almost everything. There isn’t this, I have a room full of stuff that’s mine. That’s what I was trying to get at at the beginning. It’s like, almost everything is shared. And sometimes the children have little things that are theirs, but it’s very kept. It’s very kind of private. Everything is shared, and I think that this is where you start to get away from some of the sibling rivalry is when you start to say, look, we’re family. We share these books. This is not your book. This is the family’s book. Your sister can use it. You can use it. 

[00:21:18] You know, and so I would start to teach that later on, not in that moment of hotness, but that’s where I would start to use this, uh, need for, like, clearly the older, the daughter is asking for some guidance here, I think. Maybe she’s asking to participate in his cool scheme. 

[00:21:39] You know, like, at the end of the day, children want to be team members. They want to collaborate. They want to participate. And the little brother’s got this cool thing going on. Clearly, she doesn’t know how to say, like, I want in on this. Can I help? Maybe that’s what she wants. There’s something going on. I would try to figure that out. And I would also use this as an opportunity to remind the children that, like, we share things in this family, that everything is shared, really. Almost everything. 

[00:22:06] Randi Rubenstein: It’s good. You know, what’s interesting is that, mom ended up taking the books away and… because you know, then when it got physical, it was all intense. And so then dad ended up driving younger brother to school. Mom ended up driving older sister to school and they just kind of separated them and did it. And mom took the books. 

[00:22:30] Well then, mom found out when she, she called her from work and, and talked to her after school and older sister ended up saying, she’s like, so I ended up going and taking the books back and putting them in my backpack. So she comes clean and tells mom, I mean, she’s, she’s resourceful and crafty.

[00:22:51] So she goes and gets the books back, puts them again in her backpack, takes them to school. In the middle of the day, she was feeling, I think, guilty about it. So she asked her teacher, can I go, I have my brother’s books and I actually didn’t have permission to take them. Can I actually go and return them to him in his classroom?

[00:23:12] Michaeleen Doucleff: Mm 

[00:23:14] Randi Rubenstein: I know. So then she goes and she returns them to her brother in his classroom. And you know, when we were talking about it and I said, and when you go back, right, like after it’s not hot anymore and you, and you have a conversation with each of them, which I, I think this property conversation is really good and really important. I didn’t think about this, but I’m going to definitely have the mom listen to this podcast because I think that this is such a valid point. But what I said to the mom was, I think there’s something else coming up for her that like, why did she, cause he never would have even known she had the books in her backpack in the first she told him, so I was like, there’s more to the story here. Um, 

[00:24:01] Michaeleen Doucleff: For sure. 

[00:24:01] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah. You know, I said, I have a feeling she’s used to using younger brother as a little bit of a punching bag when, you know, and she’s doing this in the last, like the whole morning is smooth. And then 2 minutes before it’s time to go is when a lot of times these, fights out of nowhere break out. 

[00:24:21] Well, it seems like it’s happening on these early mornings when dad takes them to school. And I said, so could she be like happy being at home that she doesn’t want to go to school as early as seven o’clock? And mom was like, no, she actually loves getting there early. She loves those early mornings.

[00:24:39] I was like, okay, so that’s not it. Maybe it’s that she, could she be craving one on one time with dad? Could it be that she, you know, she’s using this as a way to fight with brother right before it’s time to go? And then quite often what ends up happening is what happened, where y’all separate them and you end up driving one and she drives the other. Could it be that she’s craving one on one time?

[00:25:02] And she’s like, actually that would make sense because her and her dad they have kind of been at odds a lot lately. And so she might be craving either one on one time with him or for her brother to go, you know, she doesn’t know, but I was like, but you won’t find out… You know, these are just, we’re just kind of like throwing ideas out. You’re not going to find out until you go and sit with her and get to the root of why she’s doing this two minutes before it’s time to go. Because you know there’s a reason and it probably wasn’t even about the books. 

[00:25:41] Michaeleen Doucleff: I would be, like, reluctant to automatically assume it’s like, something devious? You know, I think one of the big problems with sibling rivalry is I think… what I have seen around the world is that siblings love to take care of each other. They love to work together. They love, just as like a young child wants to work together with their parent, an older sibling, I know it sounds crazy to a lot of parents, they want to be helpful 

[00:26:12] Randi Rubenstein: No, I believe it.

[00:26:14] Michaeleen Doucleff: and be on the same team and work together with a younger child. It’s just that it’s never been fostered or taught. In fact, the opposite has been assumed. And so I would use this as an opportunity to see if I could get them to work together. You know, on this library thing. Like, do you want to help your brother? Maybe you guys could work together? Like, I see it as her, like, requesting to be involved in this thing or requesting to involved more cooperatively in her brother’s life. Like, that’s how I think a lot of parents around the world would interpret this.

[00:26:47] I know that sounds crazy, but, I think we automatically assume they want to compete. They want to be isolated, right? They want alone time. But what if she actually wants the opposite? What if she wants to be involved and do something collaboratively with her brother? 

[00:27:04] This is just like a wild speculation, but like… there’s a really interesting study that I wrote about for NPR a couple years ago, where it looks at siblings. And I just thought of this for this episode. It looks at how siblings, , collaborate and work together in a very, um, set up laboratory, um, like experiment and, um, it’s, brothers and sisters, mixed pairs, and it’s, um, European Americans pairs, and then, um, indigenous Mexican, uh, in America siblings, and they have this game they have to do. Uh, and then the researchers watch how they do it and they’re told explicitly to work together. 

[00:27:47] And it’s so fascinating, Randi, because the European American siblings, they’re about the same age as what you’re talking about in this story, don’t know how to work together in this, experiment, in this game. And you can see it in the videos. You can see it the way that they encoded the game. 

[00:28:05] Whereas the indigenous America, the Native American group, siblings actually really work together in multiple ways on this task. And I think that it’s because the parents have taught them to do this, how to do this and that the parents have collaborated with the children.

[00:28:25] And so, you know, we automatically go to this thing of, like, individualism and, and, whereas I, I really think kids, siblings, they want to help each other. They want to work together with each other. And if we come at it from that perspective, maybe, you’ll see it, you know? And maybe it will come, it will come out more. Interesting because after an argument like that, I think a Maya mom would, would have the two siblings do each other’s laundry or something like that. Like, there’s always this, like, like, if they argue or whatever, then the parents create things that, make them work together or help each other. That’s the punishment, helping each other.

[00:29:08] Randi Rubenstein: Well, I think a lot of times what we’re dealing with and that study is so interesting with the European kids because, I’ve had many people who end up going through the sibling, my sibling fighting program where they say, I wish I would’ve known this, like even from like the very first webinar that they watched. They’re like, I wish I would have known this information when I had my second child or my third child, because I would have handled it differently. 

[00:29:40] Cause one of the things I talk about is that when you bring a new baby into the house, it’s super important that the older sibling is a part of the team. So, like, they’re, they’re getting diapers, they’re, they’re with you breastfeeding. You’re like, the baby’s falling asleep, get the wet washcloth, you gently, gently on the feet. Oh, my gosh. They, they see, yeah, right. You have the, oh my god, you love your older brother so much. Look how lucky you are. He didn’t have an older brother. He was the oldest one, but you, you’re so lucky little baby to have this amazing person, you know? So I, I talk about that team from the beginning. 

[00:30:22] But when you don’t have that, when that hasn’t been part of the conditioning and from the get go, it was all of a sudden new baby comes in, and Taylor Swift, who used to be giving me a private concert is now giving you a private concert more of the time than they’re giving me a private concert. And it becomes sort of this competitive relationship early on, and so we’ve got to just, I think exactly what you’re saying. It’s like, we have to disrupt that pattern and now foster that team building a little bit later on. Right?

[00:30:59] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I think it, it is like a reset in the family. I mean it really is. Like, I think that that’s why you dread it. And like, you know, it’s like fixing this is, is kind of advanced, you know, because it, you kind of have to reset the rules. The… you have to reset the, the expectations of how we treat each other. 

[00:31:21] One of the things in you were talking, or you were mentioning in the, in the spreadsheet for this call is like, siblings talking mean to each other, saying mean things to each other, like arguing, right? And being mean to each other and like in many, many households around the world, that would be completely unheard of number one, but also not tolerated.

[00:31:42] Like, just that would be cut off right away. Like, we just don’t talk to family members in a disrespectful way. It doesn’t matter if they’re two years old, if you’re eight years old. One of the huge rules Of, the home is like, we treat each other with respect. The family is treating each other with respect. That is number one. 

[00:32:03] And that is that expectation is set from the beginning. Right? And so the truth, I think that that’s what you have to reset that, you know, I think a lot like, my household that I grew up in. My sister was vicious to me, vicious, mean words, shoes thrown at me. I mean, so much. We, our, my family treated each other, worse than they treat strangers, right? This is a very Western thing. 

[00:32:27] Randi Rubenstein: In many households, yeah,

[00:32:28] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, like you, you know, like you’re, you’re arguing and mean and then you smile at the stranger on the street, right? And, and this is a very, first of all, a very Western thing. This does, this, in psychology, this doesn’t happen in any other, really any other society where the family members get treated 

[00:32:43] Randi Rubenstein: Really? 

[00:32:43] Michaeleen Doucleff: the worst. Yes, it’s one of the WEIRD things that we do in, in, you know, WEIRD psychology. So, you know, Western, Westerners, Western Europeans, have these set of WEIRD things that they do in psychology experiments…

[00:32:54] Randi Rubenstein: Will you talk… somebody, one of my moms was just talking, was just quoting the WEIRD thing back to me, and she’s like, I probably got this from you. I’m like, no, you didn’t. You got it from Michaeleen and Hunt, Gather Parent, ’cause she talks all about this. So will you break down the, the WEIRD concept again?

[00:33:14] Michaeleen Doucleff: Yeah, and actually it’s a good point because I think it’s really a huge part of this reason we have this sibling problem is this WEIRD… so WEIRD is like an acronym for like Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic. So it’s just some, um, psychologist came up with it really, to describe Western European culture, right? Not Eastern European, but what the West and then the United States, Australia. 

[00:33:39] So what it is, is if if you look at a series of psychological experiments that, you know, psychologists like to do questionnaire surveys. These people, Western Europeans, do very strange things and very unique, have very unique behaviors in like a handful of experiments, that then if you run in other cultures all around the world, they tend to do more similarly.

[00:34:05] So we’re kind of the, uh, me, I’m Irish Scottish, so I’m part of the WEIRD, you know, I tend to do these WEIRD things that, like, the rest of the world doesn’t do. And you just don’t see it. So one of the things is you have this very, very positive, good treatment of strangers at the same time that there’s a lot of disrespect within the family.

[00:34:31] So anywhere else in the world, it’s flipped around. The family takes precedent. The family is more important. You know, you respect the family, you take up for the family. Um, and then you’re more apprehensive, not as kind to the strangers. Which, I mean, evolutionarily makes more sense. Right? And you could see how could be more conducive to siblings getting along. Right? 

[00:34:55] So what I would try to do is, is try to reset the expectations of like, we are kindest to our family. We are kindest to our siblings, to the people that we live with. And we don’t, we don’t talk to them that way. We don’t talk to them that way. And you don’t get angry because that’s gonna be a whole nother can of worms. But it’s just, it’s, it’s starting to kind of reset the culture of like, respect within the family. And it, and it applies to every, every family member. 

[00:35:21] Randi Rubenstein: It’s like the family is sacred,

[00:35:24] Michaeleen Doucleff: Absolutely, right.

[00:35:25] Randi Rubenstein: I, it’s, yeah.

[00:35:27] Michaeleen Doucleff: And the number one, the number one, and like, that’s who you defend. That’s who you take up for. That’s who you support. And, you know, I tell Rosie this, I tell her, I say, I have your back. You are my number one. No, not your friend down the street, not the teacher, not the, you know, the doctor. 

[00:35:45] It’s like you and me, we’re, we have each other’s back. And I think that is what kids need to feel this kind of groundedness. Right. I didn’t have this. I, I didn’t have this at all. I never felt like my parents had my back and, and it made me feel kind of like I’m floating in life a little bit, you know? But I think the kid knowing that they are supported by their parents, by their siblings, by, you know, number one, no matter what. I think is, such a powerful force in their life for feeling secure and safe and, uh, calm, you know?

[00:36:23] Randi Rubenstein: Yeah. When my kids ever came home from school and talked about like a teacher, you being unfair or, you know, whatever it is. I always am like, really, what did she do? Wait, what? And it’s not like, I think a lot of parents are worried that, you’re going to be modeling for your kids that they can go and be rude or disrespectful to the teacher. 

[00:36:53] Michaeleen Doucleff: Or question. 

[00:36:54] Randi Rubenstein: Like you, yeah, or question, like if your kid comes home and is telling you something happened or the teacher was in a bad mood or they yelled at them. You know, or, you know, did some things that, that were not okay, or, or graded their tests too harshly, or whatever it is, you just have their back and believe them. That doesn’t mean you go and fight the battle for them. 

[00:37:18] Michaeleen Doucleff: Right. 

[00:37:18] Randi Rubenstein: like, it’s enough. Right. It’s enough just to be like, ugh. You’re like with them in it. And it’s amazing what happens. Like I’ve always handled it like that. And I’ve, I really, well, Alec may have at times, especially in high school when he was like teenagery and rebellious, if he felt like a teacher was really in the wrong, I think he probably mouthed off a little bit, but they would never think to go and show disrespect, because it’s like, it’s, it’s just… 

[00:37:52] There’s something about having each other’s backs that just makes feel supported and confident and able to figure it out. It doesn’t teach them to go and be rude and, and have disrespectful behavior to other people because they feel so respected at home.

[00:38:08] Michaeleen Doucleff: No, it’s just like, look, you’ve got a problem. We’re going to, we’re going to, figure it out together. That is exactly right. It doesn’t mean you go and you fix it. It’s just that you’re telling the kid, like, I’ve got your back. I’m gonna, I’m here. We’re going to, you know, this is your job as a parent to help them figure it out.

[00:38:25] And I think you can teach the older siblings to do that for the younger sibling, right? And it’s just like you said, like when the baby comes, it’s like, it can be an exciting time for the other kid, cause it’s like, now you have all this responsibility. Kids love responsibility. Younger kids. Right? I don’t know about teenagers, but I think they do too actually. There’s a book coming out about how they want, they want responsibility and purpose. 

[00:38:48] But you know, it’s like you, this is exciting. You’ve got all this new responsibility to help and take care and you, you are the role model now and, and you’re the one they look up to and, and so you can, you can start this. 

[00:39:01] As they get older, a lot of that then is like helping them solve problems, you know, helping them figure out their friends. And that’s why I’m saying like, it trickles down from the parents, right? It’s like, I’ve got your back and you’ve got your little brother’s back and, you know, we’re, we’re all, working together.

[00:39:17] And. And it’s like, I’m going to be here for you no matter what, and I’m going to trust you, like you said, and I’m going to believe you, even more than, than some outside stranger, you know? It doesn’t mean I’m mean, or whatever to that stranger, but it just means like, I’m on your team and we’re going to, we’re going to get this done together. You know, I’m going to help you.

[00:39:38] Randi Rubenstein: Well think about it. It’s it’s kind of crazy. It’s like

[00:39:42] if your kid comes home and complains about another kid or come, or or vents to you about something crummy that happened to them that day, whether it was a friend or a teacher or someone else. How often as parents in our WEIRD culture, are we taking that opportunity to try to teach them something or point out what the other person’s perspective might be or poke holes? It’s sort of like this like systemic gaslighting, know? 

[00:40:14] Michaeleen Doucleff: Undermining, right? I don’t, I don’t it, but that’s how my parents were too. And then there was also this like playing off each other, like me and my sister, which I, which is just so toxic, right? Like, one parent would talk bad about the other kid, the other sibling with, you know, with each other. So it wasn’t even just gaslighting from a stranger. It was like gaslighting within our family, you know, it was so toxic.

[00:40:36] Randi Rubenstein: I came from too. Yeah.

[00:40:39] Michaeleen Doucleff: Oh, it’s awful. Like, you’re totally undermining this team foundational thing that we’re talking about. Right? 

[00:40:46] Randi Rubenstein: Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips, tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household, I want you to go to my website and check out We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you.

[00:41:20] And, as always, we’re on all the social channels under mastermind parenting, on Instagram it’s mastermind_parenting. And, you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook Lives where I give you teaching and coaching and I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better, because when they feel better they do better, and I love, love, love getting to know you guys. 

[00:41:53] So thanks for listening. If you like this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review. Super super appreciative. 

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Creating A Happier Household

by Randi Rubenstein