Siblings have long memories when it comes to the perceived inconsistencies from parents. My older brothers can pull up examples from 40 years ago that clearly demonstrate the perceived advantages I received as the youngest sibling (and only girl). Parents try to treat kids fairly. So what do we do when one or more of our kids have special needs and require different rules, expectations and consequences?
Fair isn't equal
My kids, like all kids, have very different needs, abilities and interests. But they all have a strong sense of injustice. For example, the younger boys didn't understand why they had a limit on screen time when their oldest brother didn't. So I explained that fair doesn't mean that everyone gets the same; it means that everyone gets what they need. You can imagine how well that message was received (hint...not very well at all).
How to be fair
2. Clarify rules and expectations: Sometimes my kids would claim that they "always" had to do the work and their siblings "never" had any jobs around the house. So we made a job chart that was posted in the kitchen and the boys could see that everyone in the family had a job to do. We would rotate jobs, teach them how to do each chore and keep the duration short (5-10 minutes) so that they could be successful.
3. Rotate attention: It's hard to meet the needs of multiple kids. Sometimes you won't be able to. I remember when my youngest son kept telling me he couldn't see the board at school and it took me four months to get him to the optometrist (and yes he needed glasses). Recognize that sometimes your kids will have to wait while you help their sibling.
Additional tips to calm sibling chaos
1. Find activities that siblings enjoy doing together: It might only be 1 or 2 things, and you might have to keep it short, but help your kids remember what they like to do together.
2. Support privacy: Build quiet time into your day, when possible, so that kids can get a break from being together. Some kids need a lot of privacy so that they can feel calm and cope with social demands the rest of the day.
3. Teach how to ignore: It's so hard to ignore an annoying sibling, and kids with Asperger's find this especially challenging. We have to teach concrete alternatives to "ignore it," like walking away, asking for help, going to their own room for privacy, or offering to do something less annoying with their sibling.