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When It Comes to Siblings, Can You Change the Rules?

When It Comes to Siblings, Can You Change Your Rules?

By Kelcey Kintner

My 6 (almost 7!) year old daughter has been begging me to get her ears pierced. And she looks like this so you can imagine it’s hard to say no.

I really want to let her but there is something stopping me.

Her siblings.

You see, 6 year old Harlowe is my third girl. I made her older sisters (now 10 and 12) wait until they were 8 to get their ears pierced. Why? Partly because as a child I had to wait until I was 12 years old, so shouldn’t they at least have to wait until 8?!

And also, I didn’t really feel my oldest daughter, Dylan, was ready until then. Newly pierced ears take care. You must clean them, turn the earrings and you may even have to deal with infections. I sometimes had to remind Dylan just to brush her teeth so it wasn’t until she was 8 that I felt she was ready for the responsibility. And then I just kept the same rule for my daughter Summer.  And now there is my youngest daughter, Harlowe.

But I just don’t care anymore about that rule anymore. Parenthood changes you. Overtime, you realize so many things just don’t really matter. Sometimes you can give the kids pizza for lunch and dinner (and you will). Or you throw them all into bed without baths because it’s just easier. And sometimes you let them stay up too late because it’s more fun than putting them to bed on time.

I really want to let my 6 year old get her ears pierced. I think she’s ready. But I’m hesitant to deal with her older siblings who will feel cheated that this rule has suddenly changed.

I know because I know them and I remember feeling that way as a kid. I remember having a nightly curfew as a teen. Then, my younger sister had none. That rule had changed. I think my mother had gotten more laid back. And it didn’t feel fair.

But clinical social worker Michelle Kaplan of The Child Mind Institute says it’s okay for parents to change the rules for different kids. Because each child is an individual.

“Things can be fair, but not always equal, and children are all ready for things and need things at different times. When you make a house rule, you are thinking about each child as their own person. You are thinking about what they are ready for and how they may show that they are ready,” Kaplan says. But she adds that, it is important to also validate your child’s feelings by acknowledging that it can feel unfair, and you are sorry if they feel this way.

And although rules can be different for each sibling, it’s important to keep things consistent once you set a rule for a particular child. She says, “So if you were more relaxed about curfew for your older child and now realize it probably makes sense to have a more set curfew for your younger child, stick to that rule once you set it.”

I’m taking her advice and will mostly likely let my daughter Harlowe get her ears pierced for her 7th birthday, knowing full well that there will be an uproar from her older siblings.

But that’s life. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel fair.  And I don’t want to feel trapped by a rule I made years ago. Especially when it doesn’t fit this child.

I’m planning to talk to my older girls separately and say something like this… “I’m going to let Harlowe get her ears pierced for her birthday. I know it’s a year sooner than I let you but I really feel like she is ready for the responsibility. I know you might have some feelings about this and I want to talk about it with you.”

If then they express upset over my decision, I will really listen to them and say, “I know it feels unfair. I get it. I would feel the same way if I were you. But just know, I didn’t do this to be unfair or upset you. Kids are just ready for things at different times and I want to treat each of you as the individual, amazing people you are.”

Maybe it won’t be as big a deal as I fear. Or maybe it will. But either way, it will all be ok.

Children are different. Parents change. And it’s okay to make different decisions. We aren’t following an owner’s manual. We are going where the journey takes us.

Have you ever changed a rule in your house? Tell us about it. 

Photo source: Stocksy/Yuko Hirao

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Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner writes the humor blog, The Mama Bird Diaries and co-founded the cheeky advice site, The Mouthy Ho...

Kelcey Kintner writes the humor blog, The Mama Bird Diaries and co-founded the cheeky advice site, The Mouthy Housewives. This Columbia Journalism School graduate also drives a gold minivan because you can’t fit five kids on a Vespa. An award winning journalist, she still secretly longs to be an Olympic ice skater. You can follow her on Twitter @mamabirddiaries.

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