Siblings Fight Over Halloween Costumes

Filed under: Holidays, Expert Advice: Teens, Behavior: Teens, Expert Advice: Tweens, Behavior: Tweens, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Behavior: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Behavior: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Babies, Expert Advice: Family Time

Dear AdviceMama:

Both my boys insist that the ONLY thing they want to be for Halloween is Wolverine. They came up with the idea on the same day, and have fought, bribed and done everything under the sun to convince the other to pick something else. Neither boy is budging. I've had it with trying to negotiate a solution. Help!

Weary of Warring!

Dear Weary,

Here is what I would suggest you do about your kids' costume conflict: Absolutely nothing! Childhood is filled with frustrating moments. In a sense, each challenging experience that children successfully navigate provides them with another notch in their belt to remind them that they can handle life's disappointments. There is no other way for children to grow into adaptable, resilient adults other than discovering that even if they don't get the longed for toy, costume or girlfriend, they can survive and thrive.All of us know grown-ups who fall apart when upsetting things happen. Your brother-in-law's loan falls through and he screams obscenities at the loan officer. Your dog leaves something undesirable on your neighbor's lawn, and she leaves a furious ten-page letter on your doorstep. Children who haven't mastered the art of adaptation grow up to become adults incapable of handling life when it doesn't go their way.

I understand the temptation to try to negotiate a solution between your boys. But the fact is, your sons are going to either figure out a solution ... or not. Your job is to lovingly support them as they express their anger or sadness. It is not to fix their problem. Stay out of the fray and let your sons know what you are -- and aren't -- willing to do, whether it's to provide them each with $20 toward a costume, helping them put together a unique get-up from the attic, or support them to trick-or-treat in a T-shirt and jeans.

If one of them threatens to boycott Halloween unless he gets his way, let him stay home. Don't invest the situation with more drama than it deserves. I'm guessing that if you step back and let your boys sort this out, they will.

Remember: We're not really raising children here. We're raising adults.

Yours in parenting support,

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, Parenting Without Power Struggles, is available on Amazon. Sign up to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.