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This is my first post and is probably going to be characteristic of the three areas that I'm working on most with my 7 and 6 year old daughters:

  1. How to discipline the girls in a loving and supporting manner;
  2. How to balance the needs between the two kids; and
  3. How to handle the imbalance created due to the fact that my 6 year old's best friends of the same age is the daughter of my wife's best friend so my seven year old daughter is often the position of a "third wheel".

Apologies in advance if this post sounds somewhat pedantic and robot-like but writing out these points helps me focus on what things that I'd like to improve on as a father of two bright, loving and wilful little girls.

My first question as a "newbie" relates to this:

I have noticed that my seven year old daughter will not drink from a bottle of water when her sister has had a drink from it first. Her explanation is that the six-year old's spit and germs are in the water.

This bothers me a great deal and I don't know how to deal with it.

Edited to add:

My two daughters Alyssa (7) and Alex (6) are highly competitive and while they generally no longer fight physically they resort to intellectual/psychological warfare, which is not ideal but more tolerable and my wife and I have to play defense and define what is acceptable.

The girls are also generally loving, caring and considerate toward one another. A recurring competitive theme is who gets to have or do something first. This is normally handled by having them taking turns.

The "who gets it first" theme manifested today on our trip to a church fair near the end of the day in 90 weather in Barbados when both girls were both quite dehydrated, and had long since finished each of their custom water bottles. While Alex was on a ride, Alyssa asked for water so my wife went to buy what turned out to be the last bottle of cold water at the drink stand. Alex got off the ride and intercepted my wife who was returning with the one bottle of water. Alyssa noticed that Alex had the bottle and was asking me to open it and Alyssa quickly cried foul and insisted that she drink first. I said it didn't matter and that they would be sharing the bottle at which point Alyssa (as she had been doing recently) declared that she would not drink from a bottle out of which Alex had already sipped because Alex's spit and germs would be in the bottle. She also had the view that she ought to have the first drink because she had specifically asked for water. I conceded the point and gave Alyssa to drink first, which she took advantage of by sipping slowly until I took the water from her and offered it to Alex who declined and was crying (presumably) because her feelings were hurt and some degree of stubbornness.

This situation was particularly worrying not only because Alyssa has taken to "coodie" bullying which I do not believe is acceptable, but this bullying happened to manifest in a situation where something as basic and important as Alex's hydration was at issue. So this made me feel that I needed to put an end to this coodie bullying.
Alyssa is happy to accept the "spit and germs" from a bottle that mum, dad or grandma has sipped from and she is carefree when it comes to washing her hands or playing in normal germ filled locations like playgrounds etc. so she does not have a germ phobia.

I do try to change their focus when they seem to be fixated on something - but admittedly have not yet conditioned myself to think of that approach reflexively. I am aware of the power of this and will focus more.

Do you think that my 7 year old's position of not wanting to drink from her sister's water may just be a fleeting whim of the moment?

  • Thanks so much for getting back so very quickly and apologies for my somewhat confusing post. I am just asking one question which starts at : "My first question...". I do try to change their focus when they seem to be fixated on something -but admittedly have not yet conditioned myself to think of that approach reflexively. I am aware of the power of this and will focus more. Do you think that my 7 year old's position of not wanting to drink from her sister's water may just fleeting whim of the moment? – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 6 '17 at 21:37
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    I realised that -- sorry -- so I deleted the comment. I will have to think about this answer, but others will weigh in. Welcome! – WRX May 6 '17 at 21:43
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    Why does it bother you so much? That seems relevant as the "solution" might be as much changing your reaction as changing your daughter's behavior. – user27286 May 6 '17 at 22:27
  • another simple solution is to buy a squeeze bottle that no one puts directly to their mouth -- it's a simple work-around that doesn't address the issue but solves the problem. link to pic – WRX May 7 '17 at 15:39
  • If we have to share a bottle, we generally pour water into the mouth from height of about an inch or so. All adults generally drink this way anyway at our home. At 6 and 7, your kids are old enough to do this when needed. – user61034 May 8 '17 at 14:40
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My first thought about "daughter will not drink from a bottle of water when her sister has had a drink from it first" is that if you let your daughter know that it bothers you and you make a big deal about it, she may also make a big deal about it.

If you can ignore it, but ask your daughter to carry the water bottles and the separate food items -- or whatever else she wants to have as separate -- then that little bit of bother, may have her thinking one bottle isn't so bad.

Fear of germs is fairly sensible and normal. We should all wash our hands, avoid touching our face with our hands -- unless we've just washed them and so on.

I think you could have a concern IF she is phobic about germs and it carries through to other things, like the bathroom, clothing, touching anyone/anything... Then it could be the start of a phobia. Phobias can be 'cured' and they do not have to be a life-altering problem.

IF she is looking for ways to get your attention, remember that it is easier to be negative than positive and kids will accept negative if it does 'buy' them attention.

I'd try asking her opinions and building her up -- but be natural. Do not suddenly praise her for brushing her teeth if she has done it on her own for a long time.

Editing due to bullying information.

I think that one of the reasons that children bully is because they have a self esteem issue. (This is a generalisation, but generally self assured people do not need to bully.)

I would:

  1. Point out when she bullies and act appropriately. (Not watching the rest of the TV show, leaving the dinner table before dessert, being taken home from the park, or sitting on a bench at the park -- whatever works and fits your situation.) You will explain once or twice what bullying is and why it is completely unacceptable. After that all you need say is: "You're acting like a bully. Please go sit on the bench."

Remember Alyssa in not a bully. She is acting like one. Be careful not to label her because is is still a beautiful and loving little girl and this is a phase you are trying to help her through. This is not who she is or will be.

  1. Finding ways to let her know she is valued and important. (One on one time with a parent -- like 'sneaking' out for an ice cream before shopping, or reading to only her; asking her opinions on things where her opinion is as good as anyone else's. (Which colour sweater looks better on this person? Which book should we read? Do you like the hamburgers here or the hot dogs?)
  2. Real praise for real things. You may have to set up ways to do this, but as she is older, she could do some more 'grownup' things around the house and maybe get 15 minutes more time before bed or help make the menu for their school lunches or breakfasts at home. Responsibility is a building block.
  3. Give her opportunities to be responsible for her sister. It's hard for me to tell you what those things might be, but perhaps something as easy as, "Please make sure Alex brushes her teeth properly." Or, "Could you brush Alex's hair for her? You do a nice job."
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    True. I do try to not empower questionable behaviour by making a big deal -it just struck me as particularly mean since Alyssa does not have a general germ phobia and is happy to share her drink with all other members of the family. I saw it as a form "coodies" bullying which I would like to nip in the bud. Alyssa's 18 months older than Alex and since they are nontheless physically well matched Alyssa resorts to psychological warfare and I find myself in the role of playing defense so woud like to have a strategy to deal with this "coodie" warfare when Alyssa tries her hand at it again. – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 6 '17 at 22:55
  • @DadoftwoGrade-SchoolGirls the problem seems to be changing slightly. Perhaps you might reword your question to reflect that. I will rethink this. – WRX May 6 '17 at 23:42
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    WIllow. Yes. Sorry. You are right Replying to posts has helped me understand my concern better. Relevant information was in my head. This is not so much a hygiene issue as one of bullying a younger sibling by (falsely) cliaming that they are not clean. I would like to learn a strategy to stop this. I will rename/reword my question. – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 7 '17 at 0:05
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    Willow. Many thanks for highlighting the distinction between acting like and being a bully which I may have recognized had it been a situation that I could have been more objective about. I very much like your suggested approach - I was very close to telling her she was being a bully and might have carelessly/harmfully done so the next time around - she was for example happy to share her lime squash with Alex today. I am keen to introduce the concept of what a bully is to my girls and am fairly confident it will resonate with them If I point out when either is acting like one. – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 8 '17 at 2:07
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Your seven year old is technically correct. It's next to impossible to drink from a bottle without "backwash" (getting oral bacteria in the remaining water.)

Two siblings not wanting to drink from the same bottle is not unusual at all, especially if there is any degree of ill-will or competitiveness between them. I don't know how well the girls get along, but regardless, I would absolutely respect that. Respecting a child's (perhaps odd) requests - especially when they are correct - is one of the keys to a child feeling valued. If it's a reasonable demand, respecting it is a reasonable response.

Simple solutions: carry two bottles, or carry small cups; no one drinks from the same bottle (they either have their own, or they get water poured for them.) If cups seem too daunting, there are even folding and collapsible cups!

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    Anon. Ouch : - ) Am aware that Alyssa is correct and the tension between protecting one sibling from the next and yet respecting each of theire respective requests is precisely what am struggling with. They each have their own full-time personal bottles. The situation only arose today because we were at a church fair near the end of a long day and we bought the last bottle of cold water because Alyssa had asked while Alex was finishing a ride. Alyssa ended up drinking first since she had asked for the water & Alex declined to drink after Alyssa because of Alyssa's comment. : - ( – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 6 '17 at 23:16
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    Her choice then... :-/ Parenting is tricky sometimes. :) Knowing exactly what the problem is helps; was it that Alyssa tainted it for Alex? Because that's a different problem altogether. – anongoodnurse May 6 '17 at 23:22
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    Thanks again, Anon. Yes tricky stuff, but they are of an age that I think I may be able to contructrively reason with and shape. I dont think it's that the bottle was tainted for Alex after Alyssa's drinking, but that Alyssa wanted to drink first and used the hurtful strategy to accomplish this goal. They are constantly arguing about who get's to have or do something first and I don't think that essentially calling your sibling unclean is fair play particularly with something as important as sharing water. – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 6 '17 at 23:54
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    Ah... that's good information to edit into the question, because it changes the question considerably. I can understand your frustration much better now. – anongoodnurse May 7 '17 at 0:27
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I can see two facts here:

  1. The older one doesn't want to drink form bottle their younger sibbling has used.
  2. There are germs on the bottle from the younger, so the older one will be exposed to them.

You are supposed to verify the #2 (which is correct) and conclude that it backs up the #1.

I think that what is actully going on is that the older one really don't want to use the bottle (anything that the younger has spoiled?) and the germs just came in handy.

Maybe, as you noted, she feels spurned when there is the visit. So she continues with it like "If you do not need me I do not need you either." and this behaviour is just way how to display this tension.

Yes, germs are concern but only from a certain degree. If you are in infested are it is dangerous to expose both yourself and kids to higher risks than it is necessary.

On the other hand, the more kid is exposed to germs, the more resistant to them they will be. Every exposition "trains" the immunity. Kids from sterile - germ-free - houses are more vulnereable to illnesses than kids from rural areas.

You can try to relax the tension between the two. When the older is about to feel spurned give them your attention, When there is the visit, take her out and have fun. Both of them should be alone for a while because it is good to prevent "Daddy likes me/you more than you/me" issues.

When handling the bottle issue I would copy both answers earlier. I wouldn't force them to use one bottle; if they want extra bottle for themselves let them carry it for themselves. I would show her the respect to their request (the personal bottle] belittling their reasoning (since it is seems sort of overreaction here).

This will teach several lessons:

  • Your opinions and requests are respected, or at least taken into account;
  • There is no need for absurd reasoning for the request;
  • If you want something for you, you have to pay for it somehow.

"If you want to have your bottle I'm OK with it if you carry it." would be my reaction to the request. And in the dessert time, after they ate the delicius mascarpone I would remind them how many germs were there; and they ate it without a blink. One should be consistent with their concerns, shouldn't they?

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    Crowly, I think your absolutely right: – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 7 '17 at 10:03
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    Crowly, Many thanks for your thoughtful answer I think you are absolutely right that: 1. Alyssa may have a genuine belief that the bottle is "tainted" if Alex gets it first and germs were a simple/convenient way of expressing that.: 2. Alyssa's behaviour is rooted in a sense of resentment/unfariness that Alex's friend is very often with us and Alex and her friend oftern exclude Alyssa in their play. I think pointing out Alyssa's hypocracy regarding germs may actually work to steer her away from resorting to "germ" warfare. AJ – Dad of two Grade-School Girls May 7 '17 at 10:30
  • I also liked this answer, Crowley. +1 @DadoftwoGrade-SchoolGirls Just to make sure that you know, you vote using the up arrow when you think and answer has helped. Or just because you appreciate the effort. You use the checkmark to accept an answer if you feel it is the right one -- and you can even change your mind if another answer comes in later that fits even better. We suggest you give 24 hours before accepting an answer, but it is up to you. – WRX May 7 '17 at 14:01
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Really it sounds like they need to be worked with to end rivalry. Siblings are on our team, not the enemy (I reinforce that exact saying to my children). We are not to be competing against the members of our own family, ever, for anything. There is no need. There is enough of everything, including love & attention, for everyone, so it's wasted energy & mean spirited.

If your kids like games, you might look into grabbing some cooperative games. This could also help in the case where you say there is another child there to play & one child is feeling pushed aside. https://www.amazon.com/Peaceable-Kingdom-Mermaid-Cooperative-Adventure/dp/B004HVKABC/ref=sr_1_24?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1499332924&sr=1-24&refinements=p_n_age_range%3A165936011 https://www.amazon.com/Family-Pastimes-Secret-Door-Co-operative/dp/B00000IUFA/ref=sr_1_3?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1499333119&sr=1-3&keywords=cooperative+board+games There are cooperative games that start for very young ages & go right up to adults. They are generally fun in my experience & they require you to rely on one another to get to the end as a team, versus being competitive. We don't do competitive games here much. We have some, but my kids are more inclined to select the cooperative games.

How you view this is really individual. In my house, I don't allow children to be left out. I talk to them about how it feels when they are the ones left out & why would they want to participate in making someone else feel that way. My 10yr old son will even let my 3yr old girl tag along now. I wouldn't have required him to do so. She obviously cannot keep up sometimes, but he has learned to work around that & in doing so has come to enjoy her antics usually & when he has had enough of her, he lets me know, discretely, so I can redirect her, versus him telling her to "go away".

My two oldest siblings spent years competing & my parents really were of the mind to let them sort it out. The problem with that is, they have never sorted it out. We are 50yrs later with the same problems. I am beyond annoyed with those two about it as well, because they have caused so much unnecessary selfish drama trying to maneuver their own thing that it's sad. And literally all for nothing. Nothing they ever fight about is actually important & yet they can't even seem to let it go, even when you get them to admit it's not really an important issue.

So those two, they have vastly changed the way I parent. I don't tolerate any unkindness among my children. I reiterate at the first sight that family has your back, they aren't the ones who jump on your back. We are all here to make life better for one another, not harder. We are here to lean on. So as a result I do my very best to have a kind loving marriage, where we speak to one another with respect & love. I try to also talk to my children with that same level of respect & kindness & then I tell them I expect them to do the same in speaking to us and one another. Your sibling should be who you can come crying to when someone else has been unkind, not the one making you cry.

As for the drinking issue, I try to very hard to get my children to not drink out of one another's drinks I imagine they would be confused it I tried to get them to do it. It is my nearly useless attempt at not sharing illness.

Here is a GREAT book about ending rivalry (they also author another great book called "How to talk to kids will listen & listen so kids will talk") https://www.amazon.com/Siblings-Without-Rivalry-Children-Together/dp/0393342212

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