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My partner and I have each a kid - an 8 year old girl and a 9 year old boy. The girl believes that anything the boy gets, she should get as well - no matter how it was obtained. This is how she views the world, and I've worked very hard to explain this is not the way life works.

Our current point of contention is a Minecraft game for the Nintendo WiiU. For those unfamiliar, the WiiU uses optical media (i.e. CDs, DVDs). I purchased the WiiU system, and allow the family to share it. We have purchased many shared games. My son saved up money from doing chores to buy Minecraft, and I congratulated him for it. It was an accomplishment to save up and decide that was what he wanted.

He does his best to share it, and has agreed the girl can play it when he's not there as long as there's no fighting. Both kids have another household to live at as well. However, the two kids are constantly budding heads about random things - 99% of the time, it doesn't matter what about. When this happens, the boy will kick her off his game. This causes the girl to go into what seems like a self-destruct mode - "If I can't have it, no one can. This isn't fair".

My partner agrees that if they can't agree, neither get to play. Her second opinion was to purchase the game for the girl to stop the fighting. I believe this is a bad choice:

  • The same save game files are accessible no matter what disk is used
  • It would invalidate any feelings of accomplishment for saving up if it is just handed to the girl

I believe that if a child saves up and purchases something that is theirs, they get to rule the way they want over it. I believe that if the game is taken away, the boy will not want to purchase anything with their money again, and then not care about doing chores since he knows it can be taken away at any time because his sister didn't do the work for it. I believe that if he wants to make arbitrary rules around whether family or friends play with his things, he will learn not everyone will agree (this has already happened, and he learned to adjust the rules).

We talked about it, but could not come up with a compromise that both of us agree with. She grew up with the notion that EVERYTHING is shared in a family, I grew up that the owner chooses what to share with family. I see merit in both, but I am finding it difficult to agree that self-destruct behaviour should be rewarded.

What would be an appropriate way to deal with this? We have tried limiting time for both kids, but that is not the end-all solution, as far as we can tell.

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There is no one answer to this, and honestly it's an argument that is happening on a much larger scale in the world all the time. To put it in more common political terms: you were raised a capitalist, and your partner was raised a socialist. Both of these philosophies can work, but they're based on very different priorities. Your philosophy rewards effort put in, while hers aims for equality and equity.

There's nothing wrong with having different philosophies as a parent, but you do need to get on the same page when it comes to what you actually do. Your focus should be to understand her goals and priorities, acknowledge them as valid, and then evaluate a reasonable solution that considers both your philosophy and hers. It sounds like you mostly do that already, so, kudos!

Focusing on the self-destructive behavior specifically (i.e., "cutting off her nose to spite her face"), this is pretty common in children at that age. My oldest would be 100% on her side: if he can't get X, then he's perfectly happy with nobody getting X. He's very obsessed with fairness, and he's entirely willing to forgo things sometimes when it's the other way around in exchange for that fairness.

My youngest, however, thinks the opposite. "It doesn't hurt me if [sibling] gets [thing he wants]," he told me the other day. I would consider that "mature" for seven years old, honestly; it requires seeing that bigger picture. But it's also something that can be taught - but probably not during the meltdown. Meltdowns are terrible times to teach something, unfortunately - the child won't be in a receptive mindset.

Instead, talk to them at another time when there's no stress. Talk to each, find out what they each consider a reasonable solution. Maybe the boy won't care if the girl gets her own copy of the game. Maybe a separate copy of the game won't help any. See what they think would fix things from their point of view. If the boy doesn't mind her getting the game, then I wouldn't stick to "its unfair" - let him decide that.

More importantly, though, I think is to help her recognize how to handle these stressful situations better. Teach her to get some space when things are stressful, and enable that - in particular, try not to escalate yourself. If she's losing it, give her a lot of opportunities to escape without going nuclear. Talk to her about strategies for deescalation, and help per practice them.

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