PARENTS

Surviving Teenagers Or How To Cope With Sibling Rivalry

30/03/2011 11:44 | Updated 22 May 2015

You couldn't open a paper last week without reading about poor David Miliband. There he was, favourite for the Labour leadership - and at the last minute was pipped by his younger brother Ed.

Then there was the interview in the Guardian with Victoria Wood in which she remembered growing up in rural Lancashire with her two glamorous older sisters. 'I always felt they were better at everything.'

Why does all this strike a chord? It's because we recognise the acute torture of sibling rivalry. We all know exactly how it feels.

Teenagers not only feel it but voice it. 'How come,' says my eldest, 'you're less strict with them than you were with me?'

'I'm not doing the hoovering,' says my daughter, 'unless he empties the bins.'

It's all about fairness. If there's no money, that's OK as long as no one gets anything. But any parental spending has to be spread equally. Praise and sanctions have to be fairly distributed, too.

'If I get a good grade in my Maths GCSE,' said my daughter recently, 'will I get a reward?'

Disentangling a Maths question is, to her, like uncoiling a pile of venomous snakes.

'Of course,' I say, encouragingly.

This is met with immediate noisy protest from both her older brothers whose GCSE results received nothing but congratulations.

You can't win. However even-handed you try to be, life has a miserable habit of bestowing prizes in a haphazard fashion - getting the lead part, passing a driving test, winning the Labour leadership.

I think I'll follow my late father-in-law's example. If any of his three sons challenged the fairness of his decisions, his answer was always the same. 'There's no favouritism in this house,' he would say, eyes twinkling. 'I hate you all equally.'

Have a read of previous Surviving Teenagers columns.

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