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Bicker Zone #2: Arguing Over “Stuff”


When they’re toddlers, it’s natural for kids to grab a toy they want without having the discipline to ask first. But as our children grow up, they still often suffer from a lack of respect for one another’s things, which can lead to some major-league fights. How does a mom create peace in a house full of “stuff?” The basic principles in play are the same from the sandbox to the high school dance:

1.  If it’s not yours, you must first get permission. If your tween saves for months to purchase an iPod™ only to have a sibling constantly “borrow” it without asking first, it’s just not right. Give the pilfering child a warning, but if the behavior continues, consequences should ensue. Why? Because twenty years from now, you don’t want him going to jail for “borrowing” his neighbor’s lawn mower without asking.

2.  If you are allowed to use it, you must return it in good condition. Say one teen daughter lets another borrow her best jeans for a party, only to receive them back with a big ink stain on the pocket. Not OK. Your children must learn to respect other people’s things both when they use them and in how carefully they use them. Sure accidents happen, but your child needs to understand that they must take responsibility—even for accidents—by repairing or replacing damaged things as needed.

3.  If a particular item is a constant problem, it probably needs to go. An Xbox™ is not a constitutionally guaranteed right. If you spend a considerable portion of your day playing referee for disputes about whose turn it is to play, maybe the thing just needs to go in the closet for a month. When it comes back out, your kids might be a bit more conscientious about sharing and keeping the peace for fear of losing it again.

4.  Sharing is a virtue. The child in the family who owns the hot-commodity item needs to be willing to share within reason. If her siblings ask nicely, and if they have a track record of taking care of the things they borrow, then there’s no reason for her to deprive them of its use, especially if she’s not currently using it. Build a sense of generosity into your children regarding their possessions, even with their brothers and sisters. If they can handle that, they’ll probably be better givers as adults.  They will be more likely to give generously to important causes and to the needy.

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