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N(N-1)/2 = P

24 February
Posted by:
Michael Grose

Close families understand the notion of personal responsibility.

That is, each child is responsible for his or her behaviour as well as being responsible for their own sibling relationships. Each person in a family has their own separate relationship with each other family member.

Here’s a simple correlation matrix you can use to work out how many different relationship pairings exist in your family:

N(N-1)/2 = P

N stands for the number of family members and P stands for the number of pairings. If your family consists of two parents and three children then there are 10 relationship pairings: i.e. 5 times 4 divided by 2 makes 10.

The bigger the family the more relationships there, making it impossible and impractical for parents to shoulder responsibility for individual relationships.

So it’s siblings who must negotiate these relationships and siblings who need to mend relationships when they fracture.

Relationship restoration

Relationship restoration is not something parents can do. You can encourage kids to own their relationships, face up to any issues and make amends for any wrong-doing. You can encourage the wrong-doer to initiate the bridge-building with a sibling.

Making up and moving on is easy for young children under the age of four. Often parental prompts such as the following are enough: “Give your sister a hug.” “Please give the toy back.”

When kids move into primary school and beyond patching things up can get quite tricky.

Please forgive me!

One way to do this is to encourage kids to ask a sibling for forgiveness, rather than to give an apology. “Jess, I shouldn’t have teased you in front of your friends at school. Do you forgive me?” This puts the onus on the person who was wronged to accept and repair the relationship. It also gives the person who was wronged the chance to tell a sibling how their behaviour really hurt them, which kids need to hear.

Here’s another parenting prompt that’s been heard in my house when a sibling has wronged another: “What will you do now to fix this?”

Don’t let a dispute or argument sour future relationships. Support them in their efforts to make amends, helping them work out how to get back in the good books of a sibling who has been wronged.

Parenting prompts are one way to achieve this!


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