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Siblings Hit and Nazi Paraphernalia

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: Although we know that our 8-year-old daughter loves her 10-year-old brother very much, her first reaction when he teases or otherwise annoys her is to yell and hit him. It's an immediate overreaction. She does warn him (by yelling), but if he doesn't stop (which he doesn't), she hits. How should we approach this? Both kids are at fault, but she definitely takes it to another level. -- Sick of Bickering

Dear Sick of Bickering: Your daughter isn't overreacting. She's being teased consistently by her older and more powerful brother. That's frustrating. She also clearly has little control over stopping it. Also frustrating. What looks like overreacting is really your daughter's being out of acceptable tools to make her brother stop the harassment. So she yells and hits him. She's angry, and she wants to make him angry, too. Though her methods aren't appropriate, I can certainly understand the reaction. Can't you?

When siblings bicker, it's impossible to know who started the disagreement and why. All parents tend to notice is the final straw. For example, maybe your daughter is needling her brother and eventually he gets frustrated with her and starts the teasing. Alternatively, maybe your son initiates the unkind words and your daughter is simply reacting to him. Most likely, it's a little of both. Sibling relationships are complicated, often made more so by parents trying to help.

To help both kids manage their disagreement, try to stay out of it as much as possible. Let them resolve their issues on their own. However, if a child asks for help or comes to complain, hold both children equally accountable and apply the consequences uniformly to both.

Also, help your daughter find other ways to deal with her frustrations. Hitting isn't going to make her brother stop his behavior. But walking away or ignoring his taunting would push those behaviors out of fashion. It's no fun picking on someone who just doesn't care.

Dear Family Coach: My son's best friend is a wonderful kid, but his father collects Nazi artifacts. He's assured me he's not a neo-Nazi, but it's weird walking into their house and seeing a display case with SS armbands, Adolf Hitler biographies, etc. Can I speak up on this? -- Jewish

Dear Jewish: This man may be a history buff with a fascination for World War II and the rise of Nazi power. There are certainly lessons we could learn now from that experience. However, there is a difference between interest and reverence. His display case sounds more like an altar than a historical collection.

What's even trickier about his collection is that his son and yours are being exposed to the items without much of an explanation of the significance. And without the context, those items might seem cool. Kids emulate their parents in ways that are often unforeseen. I'd certainly talk to your son about what those items mean, about why they aren't cool and about anti-Semitism in the past and present.

As a person who has indirectly, if not directly, been affected by the Holocaust, you are a good person to broach this subject with this dad. I'd plan a tactful way to discuss how those objects make you feel. To you, they aren't just historical artifacts. They exhibit a hate and extermination of a people because of their religion, your religion. Ask him whether he wouldn't mind keeping those objects away from the children. If you find that this dad shows prejudice, limit your son's time at this home. Just invite his friend to your house.


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 To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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